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Titus movie review

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Shakespeare done in a semi-modern fashion. The words and rhythm are Shakespearean, but the settings are, more often than not, modern, with costumes partaking of both.

A story of victory, sacrifice, betrayal and revenge, with the odd aside and bit of humour.

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The opening scenes have a young boy sitting at a kitchen table eating cereal for breakfast with a number of war toys covering the bulk of the table top. It would appear that he is having a pitched battle between a quite varied array of modern and ancient armies.

Things start to get a little weird very quickly, as he starts pouring cereal from the box over some of the soldiers, then sugar and milk. Followed by throwing the toys at each other and doing quite a bit of physical damage to the items on the table.

At this point, you hear the sounds of battle outside the window, along with flashes of light and the whistling sound of a bomb falling, followed by an explosion outside the window, the glass being blown and bits of flaming material crashing into the room!

A rather strange character crashes into the room. He is half clad in a leather cap, leather loin cloth and boots, heavily muscled. He picks up the boy and races through a previously unseen door, down a corridor and through what appears to be a heavy steel door. All the while, there is the sound of explosions following them.

When he gets outside, he holds the boy over his head and we hear the applause and roar of a massed crowd. The camera pulls back, and what we thought was a house is shown to be a shell mounted on a small mound in the middle of an amphitheatre. The really strange thing is that there does not appear to be as many people in the theatre as are making the noise we hear.

We then hear the sound of measured tramping feet, just as the camera focuses on a toy Roman soldier lying at the feet of the young boy. When the camera pans back, we see a number of grey Roman soldiers, almost the same colour as the toy, and moving with the jerky motion of jointed toys, marching into the amphitheatre from two different directions, but converging on the middle.

The rest of the film is done very much in this style. It moves from something strange to something familiar, but with any dialogue being in done as a play, rather than a modern film. This can be disconcerting, if you let the images fool your ears.

Nicky Jenkins viewed this film at the Film Festival says:
Spectacular is the word. Enormous epic with gorgeous sets, costumes, music, performances and melodrama. Could anyone but Shakespeare and history get away with a story such as this? Could anyone other than a Broadway director bring such a production to the screen with such panache?

Tamora, Queen of the Goths, begs Titus Andronicus not to sacrifice her eldest son to the gods, to no avail. Swearing revenge, her opportunity comes only too soon when the new Emperor of Rome chooses her as his bride, and thus does her murderous rampage begin.

Soon, there is death and misery all around in this blood spattered story resplendent with gore. The production design is unusually theatrical, combining the glories of ancient Rome with art deco and contempory minimalism with startling success. The colour palette is limited to red, white, black and neutral tones - and those lovely Japanese inspired frocks with long sleeves, so impractical to those of us with hands find great use here, on one who has none.

Jessica Lange is resplendent as Tamora, that rarest of parts: an older woman, sexy and powerful. Really is she so terrible? What mother would not do as she did, given the motivation and opportunity.

Anthony Hopkins as Titus is a man to feel great pity for, showing us the whole range of emotions as the enormity of his fate reveals itself.

Send your comments or review Richard Hryckiewicz
Due for Australian release September, 2000
For credits and official site details, see below
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Just the facts:

Title: Titus (2000)
Written by: based on the play Titus Andronicus William Shakespeare; Julie Taymor (screenplay)
Directed by: Julie Taymor
Produced by: Conchita Airoldi Paul G. Allen (executive) Stephen K. Bannon (co-executive) Robert Bernacchi (associate) Mark Bisgeier (co-associate) Adam Leipzig (co-producer) Ellen Dinerman Little (co-executive) Robert Little (III) (co-executive) Brad Moseley (co-associate) Jody Patton Julie Taymor Karen L. Thorson (associate) Michiyo Yoshizaki (co-producer)
Edited by: Françoise Bonnot
Director of Photography: Luciano Tovoli
running time:

The Players: Anthony Hopkins .... Titus Andronicus
Jessica Lange .... Tamora
Alan Cumming .... Saturninus
Colm Feore .... Marcus
James Frain .... Bassianus
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