This film is an adaptation of the Shakespeare play "Titus Andronicus." Titus returns victorious from war, only to plant the seeds of future turmoil for himself and his family. Who says revenge is sweet?
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David Hugh Jones
War begets revenge. Victorious general, Titus Andronicus, returns to Rome with hostages: Tamora queen of the Goths and her sons. He orders the eldest hewn to appease the Roman dead. He declines the proffered emperor's crown, nominating Saturninus, the last ruler's venal elder son. Saturninus, to spite his brother Bassianus, demands the hand of Lavinia, Titus's daughter. When Bassianus, Lavinia, and Titus's sons flee in protest, Titus stands against them and slays one of his own. Saturninus marries the honey-tongued Tamora, who vows vengeance against Titus. The ensuing maelstrom serves up tongues, hands, rape, adultery, racism, and Goth-meat pie. There's irony in which two sons survive. Written by
Every single Goth who appears in the film has blond hair; not a single Roman has blond hair. Julie Taymor did this to emphasis the racial division inherent in the story. See more »
When Aaron speaks saying: "Come on, my lords, the better foot before:
Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit
Where I espied the tiger fast asleep." His actually says "panther" as opposed to "tiger" (as is written in the original play). See more »
Oh villains, Chiron and Demetrius. Here stands the spring whom you have stained with mud, this goodly summer with your winter mixed. You killed her husband, and for that vile fault two of her brothers were condemned to death, my hand cut off and made a merry jest, both her sweet hands, her tongue, and that more dear than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity, inhuman traitors, you constrained and forced. What would you say if I should let you speak? Villains, for shame, you could not beg for ...
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Titus. Where to begin? Oh yes, at the beginning. William Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus early in his career. VERY early in his career, and such is apparent. On stage, this script as a play must be awful. Character motivations are not explained, there are holes in the action, a character leaves the country and then comes back, seemingly only to set up the climax. There is little explanation of action, and it is less poetic than some of his masterworks (Midsummer, Hamlet, Lear). And yet, Julie Taymor, renowned for her fantastical vision of The Lion King on Broadway, chose this, possibly Shakespeare's most problematic play, to be her introduction to film.
This adaptation is wonderful. Why? Because it fills all the holes of the initial play. She adds scenes without dialogue, she makes the setting timeless and symbolic, and removes it from the realm of reality, wherein the play never worked to begin with. She tranforms a difficult play about revenge into much, much more. It is now a feast for the eyes, a commentary on revenge, power, theatre, film, and villiany.
To be fair, I am not giving Shakespeare enough credit. The play he wrote has many marvelous aspects, mainly the Aaron - possibly Shakespeare's greatest villian. He is unrelenting. And in the film, he is wonderfully acted. Titus is a good character too, and Anthony Hopkins acts him well enough.
It would be easy for a Shakespeare purist to say "eww, what was that," but I would call this retelling a gem. It is moody, gritty, passionate, clever, awe-inspiring, and true to the theme of the original script. It has only added to Shakespeare's words. Is it perfect? No. It does make you stretch yourself, the ending is a head-scratcher, but this will be my favorite Shakespeare adaptation for a long time to come. 9/10
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