Julius Caesar – Movie Review

Synopsis and Review:

Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and released in 1953 this adaptation of the preeminent Shakespeare play of the same name is nearly seamless in its production of the classic. The acting triumvirate of Marlon Brando as Antony, James Mason as Brutus, and John Gielgud as Cassius dominate the attention of the viewer. The only casting selection that could have been bettered would have been that of Julius Caesar himself – played by Louis Calhern. Mr. Calhern is ostensibly not quite as comfortable with the Shakespearian language as some of the other actors, and often comes off as stilted – as well as lacks the famous charisma that the ‘bald-headed lecher’ Caesar was noted as having. In retrospect, Charlton Heston who had played Mark Antony in the 1950, and 1970 film versions of Julius Caesar may have made a better Caesar. Heston and Brando in tandem would have made quite the pair, and might have possibly taken the film to an even greater echelon of performance.

Shakespeare leaned on Plutarch’s biographies for many of his historical plays, and Julius Caesar is no exception. In his biography of Caesar, Plutarch discusses how the Roman people after the assassination of Caesar were given a speech by Brutus instructing them on the reasoning involved in the murder. After hearing Brutus speak, the people concluded that although they loved Caesar, if he truly wished to be king – as Brutus alleged – then Brutus was just to murder him. However, once the people of Rome are shown the mutilated corpse of Caesar and how many times he had been stabbed they turned on Brutus – he was then compelled to flee the city.

The film impressively exhibits the dynamics leading up to and following the assassination of Julius Caesar, and is indeed a worthy addition to any Shakespearian film library.

The Trojan Women – Movie Review

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Synopsis and Review:

The eminent classicist Edith Hamilton provided the translation of the powerful Euripides play of the same name for this dynamic film from 1971, which stars Vanessa Redgrave as Andromache as well as Katharine Hepburn as Hecuba. The Trojan Women portrays the aftermath of the Trojan War, and the consequences of the Greek victory on the leading women of Troy.

Throughout the film as well as the play the mood is melancholy with moments of intense acrimony against Helen – played by Irene Papas. Although the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote his own more forceful version of The Trojan Women, this version – the original one by Euripides – has fewer of the graphic scenes Seneca depicts and relies more on the dramatic conditions these women find themselves in – i.e. a life of slavery awaiting them. Vanessa Redgrave is on another order of magnitude above the other performers in her portrayal of Andromache – the widow of Hector – and this is exquisitely revealed when Andromache learns that her young son is to be executed by being thrown off the walls of Troy.

For lovers of Classicism this film is a must watch, and for those that have not yet read the Seneca adaptation of the play it is absolutely recommended as well.

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