On day 3 of SFF, Hugo Weaving and I saw two films together (together, in a very large, distant sense) and the first was Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Caesar Must Die. It is a documentary style narrative about a group of prison inmates preparing for a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Shot mostly in black and white (the sole performance of the play is in colour), it stylishly captures the staged rehearsals of Caesar’s conspiring politicians. As in the play, the plot’s trajectory is the story of Brutus, reckoning his betrayal of his beloved friend and ruler. The cast is mostly real-life murderers and drug traffickers in some kind of mafia capacity and their own idiosyncrasies, values and dialects are utilised to shape their performances. As a fan of such finer details in The Sopranos, I was delighted with this film.
The audition sequence at the beginning is wonderful. We delight in some of the mad interpretations that these men exhibit, and then we are somewhat silenced after they are cast in each role, as it is then we learn of their crimes. Following the audition, the film is practically comprised of complete scenes being rehearsed during the prisoners’ recess. The director and the prison guards rarely interfere, and it seems the only things that ever bring a scene to a halt are the inmates’ personal affinities with their roles.
Not a more perfect play could have been chosen for an all-Italian male criminal cast. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare or a bit of a voyeur when it comes to mafia types, definitely check out Caesar Must Die.