The Critical Reception of ‘Cesare Deve Morire’ Abroad
Cesare deve morire was first premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February, 11th 2012 where it won the Golden Bear (the last time Italy had won this prize was in 1991). It also received eight nominations at the David di Donatello Awards and won in five categories: Best film, Best Director, Best Producer, Best Film Editing and Best Sound. It won two Nastro d’Argento prizes: Nastro of the year, and a special prize for the cast. The film was the Italian submission for the 84th Academy Awards, but it did not reach the final nominations.
In Italy the movie was particularly appreciated not only because of the Golden Bear, but also because it narrates a true story that took place in the Rebibbia Prison. It is an unpredictable docu-film, with convicts discovering in the theatre, and learning, through it, to be better people, better humans, even if they are to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives.
Michael Renze wrote in Film Bulletin – a Swiss cinema magazine in German – that “from the impression of following a documentary about the creation of a play in an unusual place, you are right in the middle of a gripping drama […]. A fascinating, allusive refraction of reality, which interlinks theater, film and life, thus giving Shakespeare new, unfamiliar faces”.
Following the enthusiasm found in the USA, the French press wrote many positive reviews of César doit mourir, focusing particularly on the human exploration that the directors seek to achieve with their work.
Christian Berger scored the movie 5 stars out of 5 on Le Fiches du Cinéma, writing: “A true-false docu-fiction, both short and superb, with an exceptional richness, power and density.” Noémie Luciani, on Le Monde, highlighted the inner specificity of the film: “a documentary that, contrary to its genre, doesn’t try to detach itself from the subject”. Bruno Icher, the reviewer for Libération, said of the movie “Preserving until the end its delicate balance, the Tavianis push, as much as possible, the strange alchemy of this small world that faces a multiple reality, where everybody is the actor, author and public of his own existence”.
English critics maintained an average opinion about the film, neither particularly enthusiastic nor disappointed. Although the film received positive reviews, something always seems to be missing: be it is realism or credibility of the production.
Derek Malcom in the London Evening Standard stated that “it is difficult to understand exactly where documentary ends and fiction begins, but the finale, again in color, of the triumphant first night of the production can’t fail to move”. For Peter Bradshaw (in The Guardian) the film is “never anything less than interesting, though I felt it didn’t quite fulfil its potential, and the repetition of material at the beginning and end is disconcerting”. Jenny McCartney wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “although dips into naturalism might have been preferred, there is no mistaking the truthful passion the inmates pour into the play. Shakespeare could not have asked for a more instinctive cast, in particular the former Camorra member Salvatore Striano as a tortured Brutus”. Anthony Quinn in The Independent instead described how Shakespeare’s language provided the convicts consciousness of their own predicament.
The movie reached a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, confirming its success and innovation even across the Atlantic. American critics have praised the Tavianis’ work, especially for their capability to concentrate the extremely long Shakespeare’s tragedy in only 76 minutes, providing a new way of interpretation.
Kenneth Turan, journalist at the Los Angeles Times, revealed an enthusiastic opinion about the film: “Caesar Must Die shows us in the starkest possible terms the electric power of drama to move and touch not only audiences but the actors who bring so much of themselves to their performances”. Farran Smith Nehme is another enthusiast, concentrating her review on the redemptive potential of art, one of the important messages that the directors transmit through this film.