Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Movie You Might Have Missed #51: Caesar Must Die

"To think, at school I found this so boring."

#51. Caesar Must Die

Caesar Must Die (2012, Italian)

Convicts in an Italian high security prison practice and perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In the process, we see how the play holds up as a real life reflection of not only the prisoners' experiences but of life in general. The prison theater is being redone so practices are held all over the prison which not only gets us out of the "stage performance" aspect but connects the play more fully to the prisoners' reality.

It was sheer genius for the directors to use real prisoners as the actors while filming in the real prison. Most of them are simply fantastic. Everything except the actual performance is in black and white which, as shot here, adds a rich textural depth.

I didn't expect the film to take us through the substance of the play but that was all to the good also. I'm not likely to voluntarily watch Julius Caesar but I thoroughly enjoyed recognizing key scenes and realizing I knew more of it than I thought. I also was fascinated to realize that the Italian translation was much more colloquial than most Shakespeare we native English speakers ever hear. That also made it easier to connect with in the prison setting.

I've seen people kicking this movie because it doesn't measure up to their standards of a documentary. I think that one can't really bring the documentary label to bear on it because it is an interesting hybrid of staged fiction and documentary.

Simply judging it on its own merits, as a piece of art, as a movie, as a story, as entertainment, Caesar Must Die is terrific.


  1. Have you seen "Looking for Richard" by Al Pacino? It's a half-documentary, half-production of the play Richard III. The movie hits the highlights of the play and has lots of interesting analysis of the play and how it is performed. I enjoyed the film a lot.

    1. I haven't heard of it. Sounds a bit like the Shakespeare Uncovered series that ran on PBS. I liked those a lot so I'll have to look for the one you mention too.