Jun 082012

Caesar Must Die

The 2012 Golden Bear winner , Caesar Must Die is an original and mesmerizing documentary which is unashamedly cinematic. Check out the review after the jump.

Set in an Italian prison, Caesar Must Die tells the story the production of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar by a group of long-term or life prisoners. While the film is a documentary and the people in the film are actually all prisoners, it is filmed in such a cinematic way that you forget it’s a documentary that you’re watching. The film starts by the very end of the performance, and then skips back in time 6 months to when the staging of the production was announced. We see the most of the play from the audition period, through the many rehearsals around the prison, right to the actual performance in front of a crowd, of who we can assume are friends and family of the men.

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The film is quite an unconventional documentary in the sense that there are no interviews, no narration, or no montages of any type. Instead the film tells the story of these men and the making of the play by actually just letting us see them rehearse the play – we see them rehearsing their scenes with each other, and we also see them discussing the play and their roles outside of the rehearsal time.

When then men audition they are required to give their name, age, and birthplace – and once the main parts are announced, text appears on the screen telling us when the men were admitted to prison, why they were there, and how long their sentences are. This is all we are told of the men, and the rest we are left to learn from their acting and small amount of interactions with each other. It may have been nice to see more of the men outside of the play – perhaps talking while having a meal, or seeing their families; but I believe that the small conversations we witness, and the personalities they bring to their characters in the play speak volumes about who they are as men.

Cinematically this film is simply gorgeous – long shots, playing with light and dark shows, and extreme close-ups are pieced together to form a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing film. The film-makers choice to use black and white for most of the film and colour for only a small portion, is both interesting and tells part of the story. When the film is taking place inside the prison it is in black and white; while when they are actually putting on the play and returning to their cells directly afterwards, the film is in colour. This reflects the film’s strongest message, that art is life-changing and transforming. When the men are on the stage there is colour in their lives, there is art. When they are inside the prison walls, there is only the monotony of black and white.

Overall this film is a unique, beautiful, and powerful documentary. It shows the life-transforming power that art can have, on even the hardest of men.


The Facts

Director(s): Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Writer(s): Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Starring: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri
Country: Italy
Runtime: 76 minutes
Release date(s): Australia, New Zealand & USA: No release date set