Wednesday, 12 March 2014

'Men of Honour' assassinate Caesar

Caesar Must Die – ‘Films at Heart’ partnership event
Tuesday 11th March

Sally Bavage writes:
For our inaugural partnership event with Films at Heart we couldn’t get a Tuesday film night much closer to the Ides of March on the 15th of this month!  As we know, Caesar didn’t survive the literal cut and thrust of political and personal ambition; nor did democracy.  The assassination created the conditions for transition from republic to empire, from democracy to despotism, but  for Caesar’s adopted son Octavius a surviving role as the emperor Augustus.

The film focuses on wannabe amateur actors - in reality, lifers and long-termers in the high security section of Rome’s tough Rebibbia Prison - enacting the theme of surviving through the medium of Shakespeare’s message.   As they are introduced you realise that many came from Sicily or the Naples area, and were incarcerated for drug trafficking (the Mafia is Europe’s biggest drugs trader by far) or for being part of organised crime (Mafia again).  Mafiosi are described as ‘men of honour’ in those parts.

After the plotting and eventual assassination, the conspirators make their case in the ‘forum’ of the exercise yard.  They justify their deeds to the onlooking prisoners watching from the serried rows of cell windows.  Anthony was Caesar’s right-hand-man and they expect trouble and vilification.  However, he describes them as “all, all honourable men.”  Men of honour in art too - though of course Anthony doesn’t mean it and dishonours his pledges.

What the prisoners learn from exploring the motives and the emotions within the play is both profound and sad.  You are very quickly drawn into the plot to kill the ambitious consul, and forget they are amdram until drawn up short by rehearsals extemporised in other areas of the prison with an audience of fellow inmates.  They inhabit the parts they play with great skill and brio and you are left to pity many of them for the lives they led that led to the lives they lead.

The last line comes from the actor who played Caesar: “Since I got to find art, this cell has become a prison” he says, as he is once again banged up behind locked heavy double doors. Surviving his life sentence is both more challenging and less ordinary.

Comments from the 50-strong audience include:

Great movie, friendly atmosphere, good opportunity for university students interested in applied theatre, please ask the café to stay open for cake!

Tense and dramatic. Enjoyed the stagecraft.

Very good film – good idea to incorporate this form of film in LitFest.

Wonderful to get the chance to see this gem …Powerful and moving.

Brilliant film – well chosen. My first time – I will certainly come back.

… and a number of Films at Heart regulars had not seen LitFest brochures before and were tempted by some of the other many and varied events we have on offer over the coming weeks.  Once again a new partnership finds fertile ground.

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