5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Shakespeare transported to the prison cell,
This review is from: Cesare Deve Morire (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 an incredible resonance when performed in the high-security surroundings: the talk of betrayals and of deceit, of liberty, of plots and of killings, all seem so relevant to the prisoners themselves that the play itself takes on a new 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 a very clever and artistically ingenious 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 cell windows overlooking the court. The scenes are beautifully filmed, the use of black-and-white serving 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, and keeps 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 even feel like I have a deeper understanding of the play itself than I did before.
This film is creative, intense, beautifully filmed film, 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.