A bold and affecting docu-drama from veteran Italian filmmakers, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, takes us to Rome’s maximum-security Rebibbia prison, where the inmates are staging a prison production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ with the play’s themes and the actors’ lives becoming interchangeable in an intriguing merger of life and art.
Unfolding through random rehearsals in cells, exercise yards and other parts of the prison, this latest film version of The Bard’s third tragedy heightens our sense of the real, resembling and bordering upon a documentary, but never entirely obscuring the artful intervention of the filmmakers. One of the prisoners, returning to reality with a bump after the high of a jubilant public performance, looks every bit the Shakespearian tragic hero when poetry captures the moment in the most perfect way with his devastating line, ‘Ever since I discovered art, this cell has truly become a prison’.
Caesar’s death creates an extraordinary tension point with some of the prisoners coming to the play with experience of gangster assassinations in the real world. Their obvious difficulty in playing the scene fuses with the characters’ own anxiety and apprehension, which, in turn, feeds back to the prisoners. Powerful notions of betrayal, honour and friendship touch a nerve in both worlds in ways that take us to the heart of the matter; the contradictions between brotherhood and absolute control in the codes of the Roman Empire, organised crime and other Italian institutions.
Former prisoner, Salvatore Striano, now a professional actor following a pardon, returns to Rebibbia playing the de facto lead as Brutus. And what a performance it is; full of passion and fire but never over the top and making for compulsive viewing, bringing out the essential elements of the play and the desperate plight of the prisoners.
The disposition incorporates the absorbing audition process that sees the prisoners going for it with a humorous mix of streetwise inventiveness and excessive emotion; an opportunity for some playful showboating that could not be missed. It contrasts dramatically with the blunt captions informing us of their mostly mafia or camorristi related crimes and long sentences, sometimes with ‘life’ meaning life.
Cinematographer, Simone Zampagni, filming predominately in black and white, lends the stark and gritty setting a menacing noir of the kind that Orson Welles so brilliantly evoked in arguably the greatest cinematic Shakespeare adaptation, ‘Othello’.
Be in no doubt, that this is a major triumph for the Tavianis, subtly using the rehearsals as a means to stage the play in a modern setting that could not be more relevant; so much so, it blurs the fiction/non-fiction divide.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy