Saturday, October 20, 2012

Caesar Must Die

At the 2nd day of the Philadelphia Film Festival I had the transcendent privilege of seeing Caesar Must Die. What a marvelous picture! Filmed within the confines of a maximum security prison, this subtitled Italian documentary follows inmates through their auditions, rehearsals, and performance of a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar". Filmed mostly in black and white, the movie's only color is "outside" - within the final production and, for a brief moment, as one prisoner viewed a picture of the outside world.

The inmates, some with life sentences, stole the show with their performances. There was no backstory about their crimes, other than a line or two introducing each one, with his name, offense, and sentence. Anything more was unnecessary. The story was about the power and liberation of the production, driven home by one man's final comment that after discovering art, his cell had become a prison.

A postscript: Watching this performance of just part of "Julius Caesar" reinforces my opinion that Shakespeare is meant to be seen and experienced, not read in a classroom. I can remember being exceedingly bored by the stilted oral readings that I and my classmates endured in high school. What a difference it would have made if we had seen the plays, listened to the language as it was meant to be heard, and felt the emotion of a real performance.

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