When the king of Denmark dies suddenly, his son, crown prince Hamlet, returns home to find that his uncle Claudius has usurped the throne and married Hamlet's recently widowed mother. Then, one night, Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost who commands him to avenge his murder at the hands of Claudius.
In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.
The Moorish General Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his Lieutenant Michael Cassio, when in reality, it is all part of the scheme of a bitter Ensign named Iago.
War begets revenge. Victorious General Titus Andronicus (Sir Anthony Hopkins) returns to Rome with hostages: Tamora (Jessica Lange), 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 (Alan Cumming), the last ruler's venal elder son. Saturninus, to spite his brother Bassianus (James Frain), demands the hand of Lavinia (Laura Fraser), Titus' daughter. When Bassianus, Lavinia, and Titus' 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
Titus Andronicus is the strangest of Shakespeare's tragedies and the tragedy which most underlines the modern day observation that his tragedies are often comic and his comedies fairly tragic. Particularly the final chain murder has always made me laugh in the theatrical renditions and this one is definitely up to par. As for the rest of the movie, it is a mix of beautiful images, wonderful acting, rotten acting and failed attempts to surrealize an already surreal play. Anthony Hopkins is almost perfect as Titus, Colm Feore pretty good as his righteous brother and Jessica Lange intolerable as Tamora, while most of the rest range from mildly indifferent to pretty okay. As for Aaron in the shape of Harry Lennix he is actually quite convincing albeit not quite in the same league as Kenneth Brannagh who did the all time finest Shakespeare mischievery playing Iago in Othello. But Brannagh as a Moor would be downright laughable - so a compromise well turned out.
The modernisation of Shakespeare is in my opinion an impossibility. Some of his plays have a plot which makes a good basis for a modern production, but Shakespeare's absolute forté is his language and his linguistic jokes and acting in old English requires settings true to the play. That said, I think some of the scenes worked better in this surrealistic environment than they would have - scenes like Titus assembling his men for the shot at the Gods, or the messenger returning his sons' heads in a theater truck. That was novel.
As for the overall feel of this movie, only one word suffices: Madness.
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