By Don Simpson | January 1, 2014
Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Writers: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, William Shakespeare
Starring: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri, Antonio Frasca, Juan Dario Bonetti, Vincenzo Gallo, Rosario Majorana, Francesco De Masi, Gennaro Solito, Vittorio Parrella, Pasquale Crapetti, Francesco Carusone, Fabio Rizzuto, Fabio Cavalli, Maurilio Giaffreda
Presented as a documentary about a prison production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani utilize Caesar Must Die as a means to play with the perception of reality to blur the line between truth and fiction. The film begins with the final scene of the production staged inside Rome’s high-security Rebibbia prison, presented to an audience of inmates and visitors. The color footage immediately switches to black-and-white as we flashback six months to the initial casting of the production. We meet each of the thespian inmates, getting a feel for why they were cast in their respective roles. The Taviani’s are endlessly intrigued by the way that real life and theater reflect upon and influence each other. The inmates bring their own personalities into Shakespeare’s characters, just as those characters inform the inmates’ “real” lives. Shakespearean dialog is seamlessly intertwined with “real life” prison drama, as the inmates effortlessly slip in and out of their roles. The inmates may be authentic, but there is a pronounced level of contrivance present in the Taviani’s presentation. The mise-en-scène is just purposeful enough to highlight the artificiality of the production; similarly, the staged delivery of the inmates lines reveals a certain falseness to their words.
While the drama allows the inmates a temporary mental escape from their long prison sentences, it also functions as a reminder of the lives that they have thrown away. They are wasting away their lives, trapped inside their individual cells for decades. As the Taviani’s reveal the inherent theatrical talents of the inmates, the frivolity of their criminality grows even more pronounced. The lives of these men took a drastic wrong turn at some point in their past, and there is no forgiveness for the crimes that they committed.