StringCaesar | Chicago Reader


91 minutes 2012

South African filmmaker Paul Schoolman has dramatized the formative years of Julius Caesar against the backdrop of three prisons (Pollsmoor in Cape Town, Cardiff in Wales, and Drumheller in Alberta, Canada), giving some roles to respected professionals (Derek Jacobi, John Kani, Alice Krige) but augmenting them with a talented cast of hardened convicts. "Kill whom you wish to kill, rape whom you wish to rape!" orders Jacobi, clad in an orange jumpsuit as the Roman general Sulla, and his words ring with authority amid the concrete walls of the Pollsmoor common room where the scene is staged. Schoolman uses various narrative pointers--split screens, captions in graffiti lettering--to surmount the challenge of telling a historical tale with actors speaking various languages, but what really puts this across is his brilliant governing conceit, which drives home the brutal politics of the Roman Republic. In English and subtitled Xhosa and Afrikaans.

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