Friday April 26 at 7pm
Sunday April 28 at 5pm
Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. With Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri
Italy 2012, 35mm, color & b/w, 76 min. Italian with English subtitles
Brothers who have been directing all of their films together in Italy since the early 1960s, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have taken on many classic literary adaptations marked by pointed political angles and absurd existential stalemates. They comfortably traverse both fiction and documentary realms, their films reverberating with echoes of both, as in the rustic poetry of Padre Padrone (1977) or the brutal dreamworld of La notte di San Lorenzo (Night of the Shooting Stars) . After a few years of cinematic silence, their spectacular reentry naturally defies classification: the staging of a Shakespearean tragedy in Rome’s Rebibbia high-security prison.
Many of the actors portraying the “honorable men” of Shakespeare’s Italian-set tragedy Julius Caesar are former Mafia or Camorra “men of honor” serving life sentences. Speaking in their own regional dialects, the prisoners channel the brutal murder, betrayal, paranoia, despair and disloyalty of the original play – looking at their own reflections as we look at them – uncomfortably twisting it into a complex, close focus. Shot primarily in high-definition black-and-white, the very modifications the Tavianis had to make in their “dismembered and rebuilt” Julius Caesar – like the marked absence of female characters – reflect the condensed, minimal and grave reality of the actors’ existences, inseparable from their art.
Though containing actual verité breaks from the rehearsals and production, most of the behind-the-scenes dialogue is as scripted as the Shakespeare, as if the directors are prohibiting the audience an obvious exit from the multiple tragedies that have occurred to create this epic, potent event. Otherwise powerless within their own physical and psychological stages, the prisoners’ participation in the “timeless” production both expands and concentrates their confined theaters and rigidly demarcated life lines; as one prisoner declares, “Since I’ve come to know art, this cell has become a prison.”