|London Film Festival Interview: Caesar Must Die - Vittorio Taviani (Q&A)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 19 October 2012 11:45|
Filmmaking in prison. It sounds like something Alan Partridge would suggest, but it's an initiative that has seen Caesar Must Die pick up major awards at film festivals around the world - and more importantly, change the lives of those involved.
A docu-drama about inmates in Rebbibia maximum security prison rehearsing a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Vittorio and Paulo Taviani's movie raises questions about the boundary between reality and art, between prisoners and the public, between characters and humans. Vittorio attempted to address some of those in a Q&A after the film.
Here are five things I learned from Caesar Must Die's mass interview:
1. It all started behind bars
The Tavianis were inspired by a theatre production in a prison - a direct result of artistic schemes that are now becoming more commonplace in institutes around the world.
"It was chance that brought us to this movie. We believe in will, but chance is important as well. Chance, in this case, was a friend who insisted that something really good in this theatre was really worth seeing - in a prison. We were quite dubious, but we went nevertheless. We were very much touched and film is the only medium in which we can express our emotions. We only make movies when spmething hits us hard."
2. The only way is Rome
Rome was the only place the directors wanted to head: to Julius Caesar.
"The idea of Caesar sprang to mind because it was Italian, set in Rome, and belongs to everybody. If you take those elements, the loyalty, the friendship, the betrayal, the plot - they're all experienced by them in real life. When it was proposed they said "But Shakespeare is a brother of ours! 500 years ago he wrote about us."
3. Shakespeare was found in translation
"We decided on the parts and assigned them to the inmates and then asked them to translate Shakespeare into their own dialects - to make it theirs. Some of the actors were sitting sounds the table writing, but there were others standing behind them not in the play who were just making sure the dialect was correct!"
4. The whole film was scripted
A lot of the scenes between rehearsals, which see prisoners discussing the text, their characters or the relevance to their lives, feel fake. There's a reason why; it is.
"Bit by bit the work became a collective piece - as we worked together they would tell us of certain incidents that happened in real life. They could be tragic or significant, but we asked if they could script those moments and bring them back to us. The stories are not necessarily happening to those people but they are true to life."
5. These were proper mafia bad-asses
"These were really high-security prisoners, for example from the Mafia, with life sentences. In one of the core scenes when there is the confrontation between Brutus and Antony, he calls Brutus four times a man of honour - people in the Mafia call themselves men of honour too..."
"When it came to shooting the scene of Caesar's murder, everyone in the jail knew. There was a lot of tension for both us and the inmates. As directors, we started framing the scene and give directions. Brutus, go on that step. You, hide that weapon. So it came to the point where, as you would, we started to direct the actors: 'You have to find from within yourself that dark energy that will make you perform the part of someone who wants someone else's death...' we said, but then stopped and bit our tongues! We said to ourselves: 'Are we crazy? We're explaining to criminals what it's like to be criminals!'"
Are the Taviani brothers aware of the impact this whole project has had on the inmates' lives?
"They understood and by portraying what they had witnessed, it was a way to bring it all to the surface. It wasn't a resolution - but it was something on the road towards a resolution."
Read our Caesar Must Die review - or head over to Little White Lies to read my interview with the director of StringCaesar, another jailed Julius film that premiered in London this month.