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Cesare Deve Morire di Paolo e Vittorio Taviani

December 25, 2012

Paolo and Vittorio Taviani are important filmmakers and they have won prestigious awards during their joint careers – even La Palme d’Or, with Padre Padrone in 1977 – but I guess it was a huge surprise to every cinéphile to hear they had won the Golden Bear at the 62nd Berlinale: the last Taviani film to get wide attention from both movie critics and filmgoers was Fiorile back in 1993. Caesar Must Die comes when both brothers are in their early 80s and it’s a powerful film – and documentary – about desperate lives and the resonance of art: the lives of a group of inmates from the Roman jail Rebibbia and the art of Shakespeare, whose Julius Caesar they are going to put on the stage for a theater prison program directed by Fabio Cavalli, a man of theater who has already spent many years working on similar projects. The focus of the film is not on the staged play but on the rehearsals, the unhappy fellows – the film begins with inmates auditioning and then we meet the chosen players with captions telling us their names, their crimes and their sentences – slowly build a deep connection with Shakespeare’s words and the themes of loyalty, friendship and betrayal emerge with shocking strength: Julius Caesar is not just a play, their lives are in it. Caesar Must Die is a film about the staging of a play but the Taviani have stayed far from theatrical cinema, this is powerful cinema filmmaking, the way they are used to, the film is shot in black-and-white and only the brief scenes from the staged play are in color and the film gains intensity from this choice: it reminds us where the focus is and how they are going to get there.

“Ever since I became acquainted with art, this cell turned into a prison.” This is the final line spoken in the film and it belongs to Cosimo Rega – who plays Cassius – and it is striking to remember from the captions at the beginning of the film that Rega is a murderer and he is in jail for life: what could have been of his life had he met art before? Art as an occasion to explore ourselves and the world around us and for a better understanding of it all, this is a major theme and this film investigates it beautifully.

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