Winner of the Berlin film festival's 2012 Golden Bear, Caesar Must Die pretty much reinvigorated single-handedly the career of Italian veterans Paolo and Vittorio Taviani in the least expected way. On paper a mostly black-and-white documentary about a prison production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar Must Die actually transcends that description by inserting the filmmaking process throughout from the very beginning of the play's rehearsals.

     Caesar Must Die uses the various prison areas as backdrops for the performance, as you witness the cast of hardened convicts of a high-security prison appropriate the words of Shakespeare in their own local, colloquial dialects, and find through art a way to transcend their imprisonment and condition. It's not unusual or unexpected to see some of the cast point out the similarities between the situations and dialogue and their own experiences as criminals; what is most affecting is seeing how, through rehearsing and performing, these men gain insights into their own lives and behaviour that resonate throughout the centuries, and find their horizons opened in the process (concluding in the remarkable final word of convict Cosimo Rega, who has actually written a book about the experience).

     Messrs. Taviani manage to be both truthful to that discovery process and to the theatrical essence of the narrative (the use of the prison settings actually highlights the claustrophobic, collectivist nature of the play), smartly blurring the border between documentary and fiction in such a way that it's the real life interludes that look staged and faked rather than the play excerpts. And Caesar Must Die gains its extraordinary power from the amazing bending of the lines.

Cast: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri, Antonio Frasca, Juan Dario Bonetti, Vincenzo Gallo, Rosario Majorana, Francesco de Masi, Gennaro Solito, Vittorio Parrella, Pasquale Crapetti, Francesco Carusone

Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Screenplay: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, Fabio Cavalli, from the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Cinematography: Simone Zampagni  (colour, black & white, processing by Technicolor)
Music: Giuliano Taviani, Carmelo Travia
Art directors: Laura Andreini Salerno, Sabrina Chiocchio
Editor: Roberto Perpignani
Producer: Grazia Volpi (Kaos Cinematografica in co-production with Stemal Entertainment, Le Talee and La Ribalta)
Italy, 2011, 76 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia King 2 (Lisbon), October 19th 2012


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