“Why makest thou it so strange?”–Demetrius, “Titus Andronicus,” II, 1.
FEATURING: , Alan Cumming, Laura Fraser, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Matthew Rhys, Angus Macfadyen, Osheen Jones
PLOT: Titus Andronicus, a Roman general, returns from conquering the Goths; he imprisons the queen Tamora and her three sons, killing the eldest boy as a sacrifice to the gods. Back in Rome, the emperor is dead and the popular Titus averts a civil war by supporting Saturninus for emperor against the rival claim of his brother; once on the throne, Saturninus surprises Titus by taking Tamora as his queen. Tamora and her secret lover, the Moor Aaron, then set about plotting revenge against Titus and his entire family.
- Written in the style of the Jacobean revenge tragedy, “Titus Andronicus” is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, and perhaps his most disliked by critics; some even went so far as to speculate that the play must be misattributed to him, as Shakespeare could not have written such trash. Harold Bloom scathingly called it “a howler” and “an exploitative parody” and suggested Mel Brooks would be the director most suited to the material.
- Julie Taymor adapted this film version from her off-Broadway stage production. Titus was her debut film, although she had achieved fame, and won a Tony award, for her 1994 Broadway stage production of “The Lion King.”
- Taymor chose production designer Dante Ferretti because he had worked on one of her inspirations for Titus‘ look: Fellini Satyricon.
- An orgy scene had to be edited (reportedly, to excise male genitalia) to earn the film an “R” rating.
- Reputed auto-fellator Steve Bannon served as one of the executive producers.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: For this adaptation, Taymor fashioned four short, digitized dream sequences that she calls “penny arcade nightmares.” We selected the one where Lavinia remembers her own rape, imagining herself as a doe (with a deer’s head and hooves) menaced by ravishing tigers. Trip Shakespeare, for sure.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Paper bag brat; those are twigs that were her hands; Shakespearean video games
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Julie Taymor gives Shakespeare’s least-respected, bloodiest play an anachronistic avant-garde treatment, with fascist emperors riding in convertibles, Roman orgies, “penny arcade nightmares,” and all of the rape, dismemberment, and people-eating that we associate with the Bard’s work.
Original trailer for Titus
COMMENTS: “Shakespeare was a drive-in kind of guy.” I don’t think Continue reading 294. TITUS (1999)