Help me find Ancient Britain on film
April 18, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Ancient Britain on film (hill forts, Celts)? Or even earlier (Beaker people, Stonehenge)?

I'm trying to track down period films which are set in ancient Britain, specifically 1500 BC to 43 AD (up to the Romans). There are plenty of films out there about the Trojan War, Alexander the Great, etc. but I'm struggling to find any that are about Britain specifically.

The only thing that seems appropriate is one called Y Mabinogi (or "Otherworld"), which also happens to be difficult to locate, where we are. The only other option is a low-rated film called Druids, which is set in 60 BC France -- so it's good for giving historical context, but not a perfect fit.

I'm kind of surprised by the lack of films set in this period, especially because I figured people would at least want to know about Stonehenge and the like. As a last resort I could refer to the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, or the "local color" parts of The Wicker Man, but I'd really prefer something feature-length, and ideally something that's actually set in that time period.

(Bonus question: any tips on films about Roman Britain also appreciated, as all I've got that's British is "The Viking Queen" and "Boudica", neither of which are very highly-rated.)

posted by lhall to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Regarding Roman Britain, the BBC did a dramatization of the Rosemary Sutcliffe book "Eagle of the Ninth", set during the Roman occupation of Britain and concerning the stories surrounding the 9th Legion (that marched off into the Pictish mists and was never seen again). It's been years since I've seen it so I can't tell you how good it might be but the book is sound and the Beeb don't usually bugger up historical stuff. I understand there's a movie version underway as well due sometime this year

There's also a new movie coming called "Centurion" which features Picts V's Romans. There are some trailers going around but I've not heard anything about it. I understand it's also about the 9th legion that's all I can tell you.

Other than the usual documentaries, I can't recall any other movies set in the right time frame. There really seems to be bugger all out there. Good luck! I'll be watching to see what other people come up with.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:04 PM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: This isn't exactly what you are asking for, but the BBC did a show back in 1978 called Living in the Past, which was essentially a prototype reality TV show where a group of people lived in an Iron Age village for a year. They made some effort to get as historically accurate a set up as possible, so this might be more historical context, at the least. Chunks of it are on YouTube and, no doubt, elsewhere.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Maybe not what you want, but King Lear fits the description.
posted by Phanx at 11:45 PM on April 18, 2010

Best answer: Last Legion is Arthurian with Roman stuff. Frankly, not very good except for a few cheap laughs (Colin Firth? I expect he needed the money), but as you say, thin on the ground, this kind of stuff.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far!

Looks like the 1984 Laurence Olivier version of King Lear might fit the bill ("The film begins and ends at Stonehenge" according to Wikipedia), and I have a kind of unhealthy addiction to the type of BBC production GenjiandProust mentioned (like the 1900 House!) so I'll definitely be tracking that one down.

All this is part of a project Mr. lhall and I are doing, to explore all of British history, through film and television, so when we've passed out of pre-Roman times we'll definitely check out Last Legion and "Eagle of the Ninth" - and I'll be getting the book too...
posted by lhall at 1:18 PM on April 19, 2010

Financial Times review of Centurion in today's issue. Didn't like it. On they other hand, they loved Date Night, so who knows?

By the way, if you're into books as well, then you might want to check out Bernard Cornwell. He does fairly well written page turners with decent history on early Britain. Particularly unusual and interesting is his Arthurian trilogy. NOT like what you've read before.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:29 PM on April 22, 2010

Response by poster: I've found a series called "What the Ancients Did for Us" with an episode about the early Britons, covering the Iron, Bronze and Stone Ages.


At least a non-fiction portrayal will lend context, though I'm still hoping to see more fictional versions of life in those times.
posted by lhall at 10:41 AM on April 27, 2010

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