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DVD Review

DVD cover

Complete Season 1


Starring: John Doman, Isolda Dychauk and Art Malik
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 15
Available 20 August 2012

In 1492, Rodrigo Borgia plays a dangerous game, vying for the ultimate power of the papacy. He is beset on all sides by enemies who despise him as a Spaniard, but he means to use his family, either by marrying them for alliances or placing them in powerful positions where they can help his power grow. On the death of Pope Innocent VIII Rodrigo became Pope Alexander VI, but his problems were only just beginning...

Borgia: Faith and Fear (2011) is a twelve episode miniseries directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and Metin Huseyin. The show was created by Tom Fontana, who had previously created the award winning Oz. if you feel the need to compartmentalise the show think The Godfather, with codpieces or a fifteenth century Game of Thrones with the equivalent amount of nudity and cursing.

The first series is presented on a four DVD set, which contains all twelve episodes, all a little under an hour. The show is presented with an aspect ratio 1.78:1 with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. The DVD set contains no extras.

To clear the first point up, this is not the HBO series starring Jeremy Irons, Faith and Fear is a joint venture between French and German production companies, which gives the piece a very cosmopolitan cast; this has the unfortunate problem of having members of the same family having wildly differing accents.

It is through his four children that Rodrigo hopes to gain power, only through power can he keep himself and his family from being assassinated. Italy, at this time consists of ten warring kingdoms, the linchpin which tries to hold the whole peninsular together is the Papal States. But Rome herself is broken into factions. This is a time which holds the possibility of great glory, but it is also a time of great violence and excess, a modern Babylon.

Given his dynastic desires Rodrigo (John Doman) has some pretty poor material to work with. Jaun (Stanley Weber), his eldest son, is a sexual predator who thinks nothing of double crossing his own brother to gain favour with their father. Cesare (Mark Ryder) is supposed to be a man of god, but instead he shows a propensity towards violence and secretly remains jealous of Juan. His daughter, Lucrezia (Isolda Dychauk) is a young woman who thinks of little except marriage to a suitable man. Only Goffredo (Adam Misík), by the fact of his relatively young age, is of little use to Rodrigo.

Some may find the first episode a bit heavy going as numerous characters are introduced with hard to remember names, it also takes a bit of time to work out the various and shifting allegiances which run through the story, but stick with it as the show is worth the effort.

Differing accents aside, John Doman’s portrayal of Rodrigo gives him a real feeling of gravitas, as a character he is very centred on what he wants but is also able to navigate the shifting political sands of Roman society. The rest of the cast are just as impressive in their roles.

Filmed at the Barrandov Studios, Prague in the Czech Republic, the show is sumptuous to look at with the sets and costumes evoking a real sense of fifteenth century Rome. All the characters are pretty unlikable, but then they were in The Godfather and many other films which deal with power and violence.

If you can get past the first episode without a history book this is a high quality drama worth checking out. If you get into it you’ll be pleased to know that the show looks to have been renewed for another season.


Charles Packer

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