Caesar Must Die
Caesar Must Die erupts in a garish flair of colours: the reds are almost blood-like and the whites are as pristine as bone china. Beginning with a performance of the final act of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you may easily be forgiven for believing that what you are witnessing is a screen version of this play, performed with the precision and articulacy of the finest actors committed to the stage and screen.
Within seconds, this preconception of the film shifts dramatically. The performers are not actors. They are prison inmates. One by one, the actors return to their cells with an almost indescribable sadness.
Caesar Must Die is something of an enigma in its plot description. The mockumentary chronicles a group of prison inmates (most serving life sentences for Mafia-related crimes) who are locked inside one of Italy’s largest security prisons, the notorious Rebibbia in Rome, and preparing for a public performance of Julius Caesar. For a number of people, the storyline alone may cause apprehension, because it is essentially a film lost within a film – but in the best way possible.
What follows is an astonishing wave of acting talent that is far more visceral than what most are likely to witness on screen this year. It is obvious that those incarcerated are playing their roles in an effort to free themselves from shackles of anger and violence. On paths of anxiety and trepidation, they are searching for pride, and utilise art as a means of escaping themselves. As one inmate states: “Since I have discovered art, this cell has turned into a prison.”
The rest of the film works more like an adaptation of the play as inmates passionately practise lines with one another and rehearse Julius Caesar prior to the main performance. The film is shot mostly in black-and-white, and changes to colour when the performance is being shown, reflecting an effective contrast between their stark existence and their second life on stage.
Caesar Must Die is an astonishing ensemble piece that is diverting and inescapably gripping. Whilst the surprising shifts in tone may disorientate some, it is still a dynamic and warm-hearted film that also masquerades as a simple reworking of a Shakespeare classic. Captivating and original, Caesar Must Die won the Golden Bear award in Berlin and is a reminder of the salvation found through art and expression, and this is a powerful message.
Caesar Must Die is released nationwide on 1st March 2013.
Watch the trailer for Caesar Must Die here: