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
Julie Taymor and Anthony Hopkins disagreed about Titus' mental state throughout production, with Taymor feeling that Titus is feigning a kind of madness, but is in fact mad himself, but with Hopkins feeling that Titus is feigning madness and is in fact totally sane. They never resolved their differences and on their respective commentaries on the DVD, they both mention their differing interpretations. 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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One of the best Shakespeare adaptations i have seen. Actors are comfortable in the material. **** (out of four)
TITUS / (1999) **** (out of four)
By Blake French:
"Titus Andronicus" proves Shakespeare had a dirty, violent mind. The original tragedy, one of Shakespeare's lesser known, plays like a 90's slasher film, with enough blood, guts, decapitations, amputations, murders, and missing limbs for several modern day horror romps. When director Julie Taymor adapted the play to the screen, she proved what a brave, gutsy filmmaker we have working here. It's like watching an on-screen play, with all the guts and glory of Shakespeare; the script does not even feel as if it was rewritten for the screen, but left for a modern dramatization of theater. Her film "Titus," starring veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lang, is one of the most bizarre updates of William Shakespeare's work I can remember-and that is a very good thing.
Anthony Hopkins plays general Titus Andronicus, at the heart of the story, who, as the movie opens, returns from conquering the Goths. Ignoring the motives of his mother, Tamora (Lang), and her two lasting sons, Chiron (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys), Titus ceremoniously sacrifices one of the apprehended enemies and supports the scandalous Saturninus (Alan Cumming) who is soon to be emperor.
Saturninus chooses Titus' daughter, Lavinia (Laura Fraser), to be his wife, despite the fact that she has already been plighted to Saturninus own brother (James Frain). The young couple flee after hearing the decision, causing Titus to murder one of his own disputing sons. Saturninus then chooses Tamora as his new bridal choice.
What follows is a series of memorable events that begin as a simple revenge scheme against Titus and his daughter, led by Tamora and her sons, and her secret lover, the sadistic Moor Aaron (Harry Lennix). From that point on, Titus rebels against his alliances and joins his family, including younger brother Lucius (Colm Feore), in a battle against his enemies to seek ever so sweet revenge.
Unlike the modern update of "Romeo & Juliet" in 1996, the actors in "Titus" feel very comfortable with the Shakespearean language. They all do an exceptionally convincing job bringing the beautiful language to life inside their artistic characters. Anthony Hopkins is right at home here, delivering a challenging, particularly involving, and gripping performance. Alan Cumming is perfectly cast as a sleazy slime ball. Jessica Lang takes advantage of capturing such a juicy, extravagant character and is not afraid to overact when necessary.
It is the tone, however, and the atmosphere, that makes the production so captivating. Some scenes feel as if we are in some zany, demented comedy of bleak proportions, often seized by the engaging, although unusual, sound track. In one scene, we feel uncomfortable with the sight of several young men listening to heavy rock music and playing video games in a Shakespearean movie. It is also continuously unique and entertaining. There is an absolutely stunning sequence in an orgy, and the throat slitting, cannibalistic finale seems like something Hannibal Lector would concoct.
"Titus" is a very strange, peculiar picture, often disturbing and cringe-inducing. It is not a movie for everyone. Although the film is made in a way in which I think most intelligent audiences could at least somewhat understand, it is also extremely graphic in its violence and sexual content; it is R-rated and intended for mature audiences only. "Titus" will captivate forbearing fans of its unique genre, but disgust those looking for passionate and a happy ending. I found myself reluctant at first, but once I gave myself over to the characters, story, and motives, I was simply enthralled by the dazzling filmmaking here. "Titus" is one of the year's best films.
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