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Caesar Must Die [DVD]
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Each year, the inmates of Rome's high security Rebibbia prison, incarcerated mostly for Mafia-related crimes, put on a play. The Taviani brothers follow the rehearsals and performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a play where the conspiracies and betrayals echo the past and present lives of the prisoners. The actors become prisoners once again as they are accompanied back to their cells. As one of the prisoner-turned-actor remarks towards the end of the film: "Since I discovered art, this cell has become a prison."
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An unusual look at Shakespeare, this is a film well worth watching, it is recommended for all.Published on 6 July 2014 by D. White
Lucky enough to catch this at the cinema. A thoroughly engaging and really thought-provoking presentation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Read morePublished on 2 July 2014 by EPS
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... Read morePublished on 4 Mar. 2014 by Amazon Customer
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... Read morePublished on 4 Feb. 2014 by Antony Johnson