Caesar Must Die (Cesare Deve Morire) (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/03/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 76 mins

Beautifully shot and impressively directed, this is an engaging and thought-provoking drama but the blurred lines between reality and fiction are occasionally both frustrating and distracting.

What's it all about?
Directed by the Taviani Brothers (Paolo and Vittorio, both in their 80s), Caesar Must Die begins with a glimpse of a full colour production of Julius Caesar, staged by the inmates of maximum-security Rebibbia prison. The film then switches to black and white and flashes back six months to detail the auditioning and rehearsal periods, under the instruction of theatre director Fabio Cavalli. With the prison theatre being refurbished, the play's rehearsals spread throughout the prison itself and the men find the lines between the play and the reality of their own lives beginning to blur.

The Good
The performances from the real-life prisoners (we are given both their crimes and sentences during the audition process; most are in jail for Mafia-related crimes) are excellent, particularly Salvatore Striano as the conflicted Brutus, Giovanni Arcuri as Caesar and Antonio Frasca as Mark Anthony. Cavalli also allows the inmates to use their own dialects and phrasing, allowing for additional flow between reality and Shakespeare but also backfiring a little, such as when one of the lines becomes ‘But the other senators will take the piss!’ (Charitably, that could be the fault of the subtitles).

The film is beautifully shot, courtesy of Simone Zampagni's striking cinematography (prison has never looked so good) and there are a number of memorably powerful images; it's also refreshingly short for a Shakespeare adaptation, clocking in at a mere 76 minutes.

In addition, the script has powerful resonances throughout, serving as a reflection on prison hierarchy, but also heavy with metaphor relating to both the Mafia and the wider world of Italian politics (insert obvious joke here).

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the blurred lines between reality and fiction, while admittedly clever and revealing, are also ultimately both frustrating and distancing as you end up constantly examining every scene, wondering how much is staged and how much is documentary. To that end, it's impossible to see the film without wondering whether it would have worked better as either a straight drama (where the drama of Julius Caesar could be taken to its full conclusion within the prison confines, perhaps with inmates using the production to stage their own assassination) or a full-on documentary.

Worth seeing?
Caesar Must Die is a well made drama-slash-documentary that's both engaging and provocative, even if the blurred distinctions between reality and fiction are as frustrating as they are revealing.

Film Trailer

Caesar Must Die (Cesare Deve Morire) (12A)
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Content updated: 21/08/2018 21:01

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