The veteran Taviani Brothers, have turned in a fascinating account of the annual production of a play in Rome’s high security Rebibba prison. This year it’s Julius Caesar. Filmed in both colour and black and white to contrast the on and off stage components, we see into the daily life of the prison as the inmates audition and then study for their roles. The ironies in performing this play are not lost on acting and production personnel, and at times art mimics prison life, with the inmates’ own experiences not so far from the text. “It is difficult to understand exactly where documentary ends and fiction begins, but the finale, again in colour, of the triumphant first night of the production can’t fail to move. Even if not as spontaneous as it appears, Caesar Must Die, last year’s deserving Berlin Festival winner, tells a story that effectively blurs the lines between art and reality” – Derek Malcolm, London Evening Standard. (Cert 12A)
Dirs: Paolo & Vittorio Taviani 76 mins Italy 2012
Caesar Must Die (Cesare Deve Morire)
Italy, 2012, 76 mins, Cert 12A
Caesar Must Die was the surprise winner of the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival and won five Italian film David di Donatello Awards.
When the Taviani brothers were rung up by a friend saying “Do you want to go to the theatre and have a good cry?” they did not realise the consequences. Without much enthusiasm they went along to a performance at Rome’s maximum security prison Rebibia, just outside the city and were astounded by a prisoner/actor rendering a canto from Dante’s Inferno with such power and style that they came away seeing the possibility of a film involving the theatre group run by the prison theatre director Fabio Cavalli. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar they found their ideal subject, a play mirroring art and reality.
The film opens with a packed premiere of the play receiving at its conclusion warm and rapturous applause. After the play the actors/prisoners are returned to their cells. We then go back in time six months to the time when auditions, rehearsals etc began and follow prison life through to the premiere. The actors introduce themselves using their real names and tell their own stories (although the film is scripted) and we find life intermingled with art. All the prisoners are ‘lifers’, imprisoned for the most horrendous crimes. In an interview Taviani, talking about the scene where the conspirators decide to kill a man who has become too ambitious (Caesar), says “you could see in their eyes they knew exactly what it was all about, and they had experienced it themselves”.
The actor who played Cassius (Cosimo Rega), said “Since I got to know art, this cell has become a prison.” This man had been the head of the Camorra in Naples and was serving a term of thirty years. The actor who plays Brutus was a former inmate and found it somewhat disconcerting to return to the prison to perform his part. Taviani rates him as one of Italy’s current finest actors.
Taviani also said “These men have lived in an underworld of darkness. It is not until they get into jail they can be exposed to things they have never been exposed to before, such as art, and it is in that moment they start to understand the real reason they have been in prison all along”.
Cassio – Cosimo Rega
Bruto – Salvatore Striano
Cesare – Giovanni Arcuri
Decio – Juan Dario Bonetti
Lucio – Vincenzo Gallo
Metello – Rosario Majorana
Trebonio – Francesco De Masi
Cinna – Gennaro Solito
Marcantonio – Antonio Frasca
Theatre Director – Fabio Cavalli
Directors – Paulo and Vittorio Taviani
Screenplay – Paulo and Vittorio Taviani based on play by William Shakespeare
Cinematography – Simone Zampagni
Editing – Roberto Perpignani
Music – Giuliano Taviani and Carmelo Travia
Producer – Grazia Volpi
“A cinematic hymn to the power of art. ” A O Scott, The New York Times.
“… humane, intelligent and affecting” Geoff Andrew, Time Out.
MOMMA DON’T ALLOW (short)
“Best soundtrack all season – Audrey Hepburn eat your heart out! London girls know how to dance.”
“Excellent – remember the era well, especially Ottilie P. and Lonnie Donnegan.”
“Atmospheric and dizzying!”
“Really atmospheric and lively. Captured the spirit of the time.”
“I could smell the sweat and tobacco smoke!”
“I wanted to join in with them!”
“I found this very enjoyable, though I’m not sure why. The constant movement held my attention.”
“Effective piece of social history”
“An interesting slice of history as long as you suspended your disbelief about how the sound was out of synch whenever we saw the individual musicians performing.”
“Have Jaguar, will travel. Good to see Lonnie Donnegan again.”
“A nice bit of nostalgia but without much point.”
“Watching people jive is really quite boring.”
“What happened next?”
“Would you go to a jazz club in a suit?”
CAESAR MUST DIE (feature)
“Moving – and played with real passion. A very good start to the second part of the season.”
“An excellent double bill. ‘Applied theatre’ brought to life. Brilliant performances and sets and composition by the director.”
“The silence in the audience during the film showed how much we were moved by it!”
“An exceptional piece of work (and prison movie), even if it took some time to get used to its unique structure.”
“Powerful. Julius Caesar in Italian with rough and ready real thugs suited the play perfectly!”
“Two very different films but both excellent cinema. CMD amazing in its portrayal of all the men, both as actors and individuals.”
“Brutus (the part) was a very passionate and watchable actor. Most of the film was quite gripping.”
“Compelling in concept and as theatre but I couldn’t quite believe it!”
“Powerful acting and drama but difficult having to read subtitles, as JC is not a play I know well.”
“Would like to have not needed subtitles. This film would have been extra-intriguing in one’s own first language, I think.”
“A good idea that generated a positive response but this drama was rather hard to follow.”
“A mini work of art.”
“Although potentially interesting, this film was boring – for me.”
“I kept wondering when it would get to the point – and it didn’t!”
“Why don’t we introduce people to art before they commit crimes?”