Titus (1999)

(On DVD, August 2002) Even people who, like me, don’t have much use for pure Shakespearian dialogue might still be impressed by this visually rich re-interpretation of the Bard’s Titus Andronicus. Savagely violent, darkly funny and constantly surprising, this is a stylistic exercise that will constantly surprise and amuse you. The images are stunning and if you can’t stand the torpid pacing, you can always push the fast-forward button on your DVD remote to see the film (with subtitles) in half the time. The haunting look of the film is a blend of Roman ruins and modern neo-fascist chic, with a touch of classic debauchery thrown in for good measure. Cheerfully anachronistic in a symbolic kind of way, Titus is also surprising by its musings on violence and the amount of gore on display. Anthony Hopkins is very strong at the title character, as are most of the other actors. You’ve never seen Shakespeare played that way, and we can only be grateful to director Julie Taynor for her vision in accomplishing such an oddball project. The impressive “special edition” DVD contains a wealth of material to help you make sense of the film’s various levels of meaning, including two commentary tracks, a good interview with Taynor and a rather good making-of which (gasps!) actually spends quite a lot of time talking about acting.

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