19 September 2013 | dromasca
theater behind bars
The Shakespearean 'All the world's a stage' gets a new meaning with this very interesting and very different film made by the Taviani brother whose actors and heroes are individuals for which the world is the high security prison where many of them are to spend long years paying for serious crimes. Using theater as a mean of therapy end education happens in some of these prisons, now a film not only dares to make this process known and visible outside the perimeter of the prison, but also tries to make of it a work of art. The Golden Bear at the Film Festival in Berlin is a proof that the Taviani brothers succeeded to convince at least the critics and members of the jury. I get the feeling that the larger public was less convinced - it's a very interesting piece of cinema, but not one of these that attracts audiences in numbers. This is not entertainment.
In one of the introductory scenes we see a screen test. The actors-to-be are asked to introduce themselves in two situations - a 'soft' family one, and a second which demands them to feel constrained and express rage. Each of them acts with a mix of sincerity and intensity that much exceeds and compensates their lack of professionalism. This is the key of the film. We have already seen theater in theater (Shakespeare himself is the first and maybe greatest master of the genre) and theater about prisons, and many of these were already brought to screen. What we have never seen before is the mix of situations which makes the walls of the prison disappear for the ephemeral moments when the words of the ancient drama become the reality of life for the prisoners acting it.
The film asks many questions which arise after the screening ends. Julius Caesar is a play about values - honor, democracy, freedom. How do the prisoners relate to these? The characters of the play are cruel in modern terms, the plot is also about treason and murder - how do these men who have committed serious crimes relate to these deeds? Some of the most interesting moments in the play (and there are only a few of them) are these in which real life (which for the actors is life in prison) interferes in the scenes of the play. I found the smooth, sometimes unobserved, sliding of life in a 21st century prison into the political drama that took place in the first century BC to be terrifying.
And then we have the ending. The show is over, it ends in applause and ovations. Then the actors get back to what is their 'home' - the prison where most of them still have to spend many years. What we do understand is that life cannot go on without such a film changing it. The lives of the special actors in this movie, but to some extent the lives of the spectators as well.