Film: Titus (1999)

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Film:

Titus

Director: Julie Taymor
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Considered by many to be Shakespeare’s worst play, Titus Andronicus is a bloodthirsty tragedy full of villainous heroes and bottomless revenge—hardly the stuff of big-screen directorial debuts, it would seem. Yet Julie Taymor dives headfirst into moviemaking with Titus, a spectacular adaptation that manages to find beauty and humor in the piles of carnage.

The story begins simply enough by Shakespearean standards: celebrated Roman warrior Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) returns from a hard-won victory to bury his slain sons and avenge their…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Considered by many to be Shakespeare’s worst play, Titus Andronicus is a bloodthirsty tragedy full of villainous heroes and bottomless revenge—hardly the stuff of big-screen directorial debuts, it would seem. Yet Julie Taymor dives headfirst into moviemaking with Titus, a spectacular adaptation that manages to find beauty and humor in the piles of carnage.

The story begins simply enough by Shakespearean standards: celebrated Roman warrior Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) returns from a hard-won victory to bury his slain sons and avenge their deaths by killing the eldest son of his enemy, Tamora, queen of the Goths (Jessica Lange). Tamora responds by seducing the impressionable new emperor and setting all of Rome into a downward spiral of revenge, madness, and death.

Taymor, who won a Tony for her Broadway production of The Lion King, throws all her theatrical sensibilities at the story—armies are exquisitely choreographed, blood is shed so beautifully that it hardly seems real, and characters are costumed in symbolic combinations of ancient Roman and 20th-century garb. She plays up the dark comedy at every opportunity, lending a carnival flavor to the story’s most gruesome moments. Excellent performances from Hopkins (whose deranged Titus is more than a little reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter), Lange, and the supporting cast help make the endless treachery credible. —Claire Campbell

Barnes and Noble

Acclaimed theater director Julie Taymor (The Lion King) mixes the traditional and modern with abandon in her brilliant, blood-soaked and occasionally black-comic adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known and most controversial plays, Titus Andronicus. Anthony Hopkins stars as Titus, a Roman general who returns home from war with the Goths only to be caught up in an exchange of increasingly outrageous acts of vengeance. The spectacularly stylized production, designed by Dante Feretti (Interview with the Vampire), moves easily between period and modern settings, even as the soundtrack moves from jazz to Wagner. Hopkins gives a virtuoso performance in the lead, careening through a stunning range of pride, deep despair, and outright lunacy. Jessica Lange plays Titus’s foe, Tamora, the Goth queen who becomes the Roman empress, with a menacing femininity helped along by her exotically sexy costumes. Titus is a truly wild ride, as the violence ultimately escalates to alarming proportions of rape and mutilation. Titus’s final revenge even has some gruesome shades of Hopkins’s most famous screen role, Hannibal Lechter. Gregory Baird

Related Works

Album:Titus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Titus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Elliot Goldenthal

The score to Titus, Julie Taymor’s film version of Shakespeare’s bloody play, starts exactly the way one assumes it will: a generous chorus pumps out a foreboding (and relatively unintelligible) chant, supported by tumultuous orchestration. The orchestra will appear again, on occasion, but trust that this is the last moment your ears will experience anything that they are even remotely expecting. Perfectly suited to Taymor’s flamboyant, genre-mad interpretation of Shakespeare’s script, composer Elliot Goldenthal…

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