Caesar Must Die is a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. It could upset the purists but the movie is the most definitive interpretation of the play to date. It is filmed in Rome’s Rebibbia prison with a cast composed of amateur actors, prisoners, and members of the Camorra. The crew explores Shakespeare’s major themes in different ways.
The play takes place in imperial Rome and about the conspirators, especially Brutus and his relationship with Caesar. The great general appears only for a short period of time but his contentious dealings with Cassius and father figure to both Brutus and Mark Antony shows Shakespeare’s views on rivalry and friendship.
Some scholars consider Julius Caesar to be Shakespeare’s oedipal play. Caesar Must Die shows the prisoner-actors’ lives and their wrongdoings. It represents the contemporary examples of the conflicts Shakespeare tackles in Julius Caesar.
Before making Caesar Must Die, the filmmakers attended several of the prisoners’ productions at Rebibbia. Their perceptions are seen in the movie’s contrast of harsh reality of life in prison and the redemptive quality of the drama.
Most of Caesar Must Die is in black and white and devoted to the rehearsals. It begins with the casting where they are told to act sad and angry over an imagined departure from their families. Their acting is so good that you will forget that they’re just acting. And even if the acting leaves something to be desired, emotion is felt and their humanity is explored.
Caesar Must Die is a probe into character, into the complex attributes of personality that led some to misjudge and act no impulses that others would not do. It is a probe into Shakespeare’s sublime characters that have lasted the test of time and relevancy.
The Taviani brothers’ use of the Southern Italian dialects serves as a political statement. Most Italians think of the dialects as languages of the underclass. It is impossible to ignore their predominance in the prison.