When you worship someone, you tend to talk about them often. Today I am back to gushing about William Shakespeare. I am enamored of his work, and the many permutations it can take now that the plays are wandering the world without his direct authorial input on production matters.
I saw another brilliant collaboration between Shakespeare and the modern mind this week. The play was Titus Andronicus—not the first work to jump to mind when the immortal bard gets mentioned. The film Titus (Julie Taymor, 1999) has probably altered the play’s previous lapse into relative obscurity.
I warn you ahead of time that the play and the film of it are more violent than Shakespeare’s other works. The play is far too violent, in fact, for my normal viewing tastes. I made an exception to see this film because it was Shakespeare, and I’m very glad that I did. Titus is an examination of different types of violence, attitudes towards violence, and the beauty that is sometimes found in destruction. It provided a lot to think about.
The director, Julie Taymor, put a somewhat surrealistic spin on the tale. She sets the play in an odd mixture of historical periods that somehow merge to form a timeless new reality. The music, cinematography, and art direction all contribute to make this film a breathtaking work of art.
The acting is also superior. There are well-known talents here, such as Anthony Hopkins, Alan Cumming, and Jessica Lange. They shine, but so do a host of other actors whom I did not immediately recognize. As a writer, I also admired the complexity of the villains in this piece. They do unspeakable things, but there is an inherent humanity in them that tugs at the heart. This play demonstrates how easy it would be for most ordinary people to fall into demonic behavior.
The lovely Shakespearean language is all there, too, but it doesn’t get in the way of things. The words are simple and direct, the meaning clear. Everyone involved in the film used all the tricks available—including some very modern music and movie conventions—to make this a stunning film. I highly recommend it.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
188. See two different productions of the same play by any playwright you enjoy. These can be on film or on stage, or a mixture of both. How did the work change?