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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping modern spin on Shakespeare's story, 10 May 2013
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
This testosterone-fuelled production masquerades as a fly-on-the-wall documentary but that's a nifty conceit which almost undermines how clever the script and filming truly are.
Caesar Must Die is an in-your-face re-interpretation of the Shakespearean story, acted by lifer convicts in a hard-time Italian jail. It's a short performance - an hour and 15 minutes - which strips the narrative back to the bare bones of the relationships between Caesar, Brutus, Cassius and Mark Anthony. The true genius of this production is that it focuses on only a few key moments from the whole play, yet somehow captures the vital themes and drama of the original in three or four stand-out performances.
It's a bite-size chunk of Shakespearean drama, performed by mafia men and murderers, speaking modern Italian dialogue, sub-titled into English. Logic says that it shouldn't work - yet in practice it turned out to be more accessible than most Elizabethan-style interpretations of this classic.
The director artfully uses the prison itself as a powerful backdrop to the action. The scene of Caesar's murder takes place in the exercise yard, and carries a real sense of mounting pressure and panic. Prison guards watch and comment as Anthony seemingly accepts his fate and shakes the hands of the conspirators... and then the prison population takes on the role of the Roman crowd, crowding behind the barred windows, first applauding Brutus but gradually being convinced by Anthony's speech to take vengeance, and start a civil war.
It's stunning stuff - especially the `incidental' moments which happen outside of the original narrative, where alpha males go toe-to-toe over simmering disputes, or the star of the show suddenly stumbles over his lines, recalling an incident from his criminal past.
Using a play-within-a-play is hardly a new device, but it's extremely effective in this instance. The final battle scenes leading to the moment where Brutus seeks death at the hands of a friend are immensely powerful. Flabby pasty, overweight convicts genuinely flourish under the spotlight to fill the mantle of the men - and values - they represent.
Only the final few lines, when the convicts return to their cells after the performance, feel obviously artificial. Otherwise - wow.
9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italian Prisoners do Shakespeare and are excellent., 30 Nov. 2013
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
This is essentially a documentary, but it is much more than that. It is made by the Taviani brothers (`Padre Padrone' and `Kaos' to name but two). They set up in Rebbibia Prison in Italy where the prison authorities put on a major play every year. We see them announce that they will be doing a sort of updated version of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. The film starts with their triumphal performance in brilliant colour and then we are taken back to beginning some six months prior, and revert to a black and white format.

We see the prisoners audition and get cast and some of their auditions would put most of `X Factors' to shame. We follow them rehearse and learn their lines and get thoroughly immersed in the characters they are to play. Where the documentary melts away is when they perform the play in scenes set around the prison with the guards watching and soundtrack added for more immediacy. The bleak settings actually lend themselves to the story. The prisoners are mostly some big hitters some are in for life and in Italy life means life. Whilst some have no hope of ever being free they seem to universally able to find a freedom of sorts, in acting and the total absorption of the play. No one over acts they are all so compelling that I started to think this was a pretend documentary as there was no way such amateurs from such unsuspecting pasts could be so completely convincing.

It has a real `wow' factor and just flew by. There are so many layers to this in terms of analysis that you have to see it yourself to really grasp the depth of the piece. Shakespeare aficionados please be warned that some of the dialogue is translated into modern Italian or slang, but despite this the beauty of the Bard still shines through. This is a truly remarkable piece of film making and I hope it gets to the wider audience it so richly deserves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Julius Caesar from the guts, 10 July 2013
This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
All actors mostly come into their own when they can identify with their characters' passions at a deep layer of their being. This premise is fulfilled in the Taviani brothers' adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar,' as this tale of power, murder, betrayal and vengeance is performed by mafia convicts at the high security Rebibbia Prison just outside of Rome. The result is a shocking revelation of the catharsis of art, and all prisoners-actors provide remarkable performances, starting with Salvatore Striano (Brutus) and Cosimo Rega (Cassius). Most of the film consists on an abridged presentation of the tale in which the prisoners-actors' rehearsals in different locations in the prison are shot in black and white. One could argue that the dramatic tale acquires a greater vividness among the bare walls and bars of the prison than on its final on-stage representation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars it is recommended for all, 6 July 2014
By 
D. White (Dorset UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
An unusual look at Shakespeare, this is a film well worth watching, it is recommended for all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant fast-moving, human Shakespeare, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
Lucky enough to catch this at the cinema. A thoroughly engaging and really thought-provoking presentation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Don't be put off if you don't like Shakespeare.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowingly good, 4 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
Julius Ceasar presented by the inmates of one of Italy's high security jails. Ceasar played by a mobster, the conspirators by dealers and murderers all of whom have lived like the Republicans in Ceasar's play but are acting these parts of the fractious rulers of the world while being confined for life. This makes a unique scenario and powerful performances which bring this classic piece to life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes grim, ultimately inspiring, 4 Feb. 2014
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Antony Johnson (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
Shakespeare in an unlikely but compelling venue. The back stories of these real life men are etched into their faces enriching their characters in Julius Caesar with depth and complexity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare transported to the prison cell, 23 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
This is a singularly intense, original film about the production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in Rome's high-security prison Rebibbia. The actors in the production are the prison's inmates - drug dealers, gang members, killers, and they play themselves in this film.

This is not an east film to pigeon-hole. On one level it is a film about the bleak reality of life in a high-security prison, with the actors, the inmates, searching for some kind of redemption through art, the only escape available from the squalor of prison life. On another level it's about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar itself, brought to life with an incredible intensity by the inmate actors. Some scenes take on a special resonance when performed in the high-security surroundings: the talk of betrayals and of deceit, of liberty, of plots and of killings, all seem particularly relevant to the prisoners themselves, and the play seems to take on a new lease of life in the prison surroundings.

The film follows the prisoners rehearsing for different key scenes from the play in various parts of the prison, in what is a very clever artistic move. Betrayals and plots are planned in the prison's grim corridors and alleyways, Brutus and Mark Anthony stand in the middle of a sun-scorched basketball court to address the crowds cheering and shouting from their overlooking cell windows. The scenes are beautifully filmed, and the use of black-and-white serves only to emphasize the hauntingly symmetric brutality of the prison buildings. The use of colour is reserved for scenes from the final showing of the production, showing art bursting out of the confines of a black-and-white prison existence.

All of the action occurs in just 76 minutes. We learn very little directly about the prisoners, a move which avoids the creation of much pity between the viewer and prisoners (who let's not forget are incarcerated for violent and unpleasant crimes), but which also gives the film a very focused feel, keeping it absorbing all the way through. A few days after watching this film, I am still often thinking back to some of the scenes, and feel that I have a deeper understanding of the themes of the play than I did before.

This film is creative, intense, beautifully filmed, excellently acted, and one which I would particularly recommend to anyone who is passionate about cinema, theatre and art, the key themes of the film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 Sept. 2014
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Florence (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
Excellent film, viewing time well spent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 22 Oct. 2014
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A. Hood (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Caesar Must Die [DVD] (DVD)
Fantastic appropriation of Caesar!
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Caesar Must Die [DVD]
Caesar Must Die [DVD] by Vittorio Taviani (DVD - 2013)
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