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Italy, 2012, 76 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art/Filmmaking, Crime, Documentary, Literary
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: Italian English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, Pablo Trapero
Producer: Grazia VolpiEditor: Roberto PerpignaniScreenwriter: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio TavianiCinematographer: Simone ZampagniPrincipal Cast: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri, Antonio Frasca, Juan Dario Bonetti
Octogenarian filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone; Night of the Shooting Stars) take to a new world with this dramatized documentary of an inmate production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Rome’s maximum-security Rebibbia prison, home to mafiosi serving time for murder and drug trafficking, is a setting for catharsis that Aristotle would be proud of, rife with pity and terror and the nobility of suffering.
Auditions in which inmates deliver their own personal data—first with intense grief, then in anger—are a powerful indication of what’s to come. Whether it’s simply the theatricality of Italian culture or this particular group of men, the level of performance is surprisingly high. But the standout is Salvatore Striano, who portrays a passionate, tormented Brutus. Striano was actually pardoned in 2006, and has worked as an actor since then. He returned to Rebibbia for this production, for which he is the emotional anchor, the central character in both the film and this simplified version of the play.
The Taviani brothers have created a stylized story that maintains a staged feeling throughout—in rehearsals, side comments and the final production. What the film lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in the intertwining of history and literature with these actors’ troubled spirits. The camera spies on men who’ve lived a life of criminal loyalty as they speak with searing passion and solidarity about assassination. Caesar Must Die, which won the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, is less about art imitating life than it is pure voyeurism, as criminal amateur thespians step into major roles they understand from their own lives.
- VAL MOSES
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