REVIEW: Caesar Must Die

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Written and Directed by: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani

Written by: William Shakespeare (excerpt from play Julius Caesar),

Starring: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano and Giovanni Arcuri

It’s incredibly rare that someone can take a canonical Shakespearean play and do anything more than justice to the poetic, lyrical, tattoo like resonance and genius of the original text. Caesar Must Die benefits from the experienced directorial guidance of octogenarian Italian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani; who confine Julius Caesar within the walls of a REAL maximum security prison and casts the inmates as players and on every conceivable level this docu-dramatic adaptation succeeds.

The noir structure takes you to the climax of the play first; observing the seriously good performances at the culmination of the play and the celebratory bows of the inmates. We then fast forward to the beginning of the production capturing hilarious and heartbreaking auditions and eye-opening summaries of the crimes committed by the players. Once we’ve established our players and we get a glimpse of their rehearsals the brothers Taviani catch you off guard as they begin capturing the performance of the play in various suitable prison locales. The brothers demonstrate their innate understanding of power of the medium, using cinematography and lighting to fashion Rome out of the bleak walls and courtyards of a prison.

Taviani Brothers - Courtesy of IMDb

 The original play/characters are Italian, and represent different Italian regions, so hearing actual Italian actors speaking the regional dialects was a detail that you would never have expected to add something to the play. Especially Brutus, (called ‘Bruto’ throughout). There’s something inescapable and inevitable about Brutus’ tragic betrayal of Caesar that mirrors the literal imprisonment of the actor portraying him. Finally it’s great to see the ‘crafting’ process, be it delivery of lines or how the players occupy the space – it breaks the rules but instead of being distracting, it’s insightful.

The performances are undeniably raw and intense. There’s an unquantifiable, special quality that these men, who’ve lived lives of crime can bring to these characters that mesmerized me so wholeheartedly. Criminality and politics seem to be made for each other.

Caesar Must Die is transcendent filmmaking. It amplifies the affect of Shakespeare’s words and demonstrates the transformative power of filmic art. Friends, Romans, Countrymen; Caesar Must Die is flawless, and must be seen. 

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

No release scheduled in Australia yet.