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Shakespeare And Movie Versions > Titus -The Movie

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message 1: by Candy (last edited Jan 22, 2009 07:22AM) (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
A suggestion of watching this movie was posted almost two months ago...I thought maybe if we started a thread...with a little info about this contemporary version. ...and a day or two "heads up" we might find some adventurous souls who can rent the dvd and jump in?

Harold Bloom has claimed that the play cannot be taken seriously and that the best imaginable production would be one directed by Mel Brooks.

Maybe Julie Taylor is as fititng a director as Mel Brooks?


Anthony Hopkins as Titus Andronicus, victorious Roman General who declines a nomination for Emperor upon his return to Rome. Following a post-war ritual of executing the proudest warrior of his enemy, the vanquished Goths, Titus draws the ire of Tamora, unaware of her inevitable appointment as the Queen of Rome.

Jessica Lange as Tamora, defeated Queen of the Goths, who swears revenge against Titus and the Andronicus family for the atrocities visited upon her eldest son, an executed prisoner of war, using her newly-claimed powers as Queen of Rome

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Chiron, one of Tamora's sons.
Matthew Rhys as Demetrius, one of Tamora's sons.
James Frain as Bassianus, one of the deceased emperors sons and brother to Saturninus.
Laura Fraser as Lavinia, daughter of Titus and fiancee of Bassianus
Harry Lennix as Aaron, servant and illicit lover to Tamora, and the chief architect of her vengeful plans against the Andronicus family
Alan Cumming as Saturninus, brother to Bassianus and newly-crowned Emperor of Rome. Spurned by his attempts at claiming Lavinia as his new bride, he forsakes the Andronicus family and turns instead to Tamora as his new bride.
Colm Feore as Marcus Andronicus, Roman Senator and staunch ally of his brother, the ailing Titus.
Osheen Jones as Young Lucius, Titus' grandson and a key-character in the sense that he observes most of the key events.
Angus Macfadyen as Lucius, Titus's eldest son and loyal soldier. Following his failed attempts at freeing his condemned brothers, Lucius is banished from Rome and defects to the Goths, where he rallies a sizeable army to challenge Saturninus.
Kenny Doughty as Quintus, one of Titus' sons.
Blake Ritson as Mutius, one of Titus' sons.
Colin Wells as Martius, another of Titus' sons.
Raz Degan as Alarbus, Tamora's eldest son who is sacrificed, setting the drama into gear, at the beginning.

message 2: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments I remember seeing this movie in the cinema when it came out and being very impressed with Hopkins' work. Interestingly, there were many reports that he and Taymor quarrelled like cat and dog during the making of the picture. But his nuanced delivery shines throughout Titus' descent into madness.

The rest of the cast is spotty, featuring highly overrated actors like McFadyen and Cumming, both giving performances that are pretty good by their own standards but average by many others' (just my opinion of course). Cumming in particular, I think, was a poor casting choice for Saturninus, not because of any quality issues in his work but because he plays it in a manner that telegraphs his villainy. In order for the Saturninus/Bassianus rivalry to work, the two men need to look like equals in the beginning, only later revealing just how different they are. But with Frain and Cumming, it's a dead giveaway and the election makes the people of Rome look like idiots.

To this day, this movie has been my only exposure to the play so I cannot comment about loyalty to the text or compare it to other interpretations. The universe in which it is set, mixing the ancient and modern, is interesting to look at but I don't know what it sought to accomplish. However, it did not seem to detract either.

message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
Thoughtful comments Mathew, and you've a terrific memory of your experience of the film. I will likely watch it tonight, as I have a few other things I have to do today.

I really liked how the mix of contemporary and ancient objects were worked.

That is hilarious the rumour of Hopkins and Taymor quarelling. I haven't heard of Hopkins being like so Val Kilmeresque!

message 4: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments Matthew wrote: "Cumming in particular, I think, was a poor casting choice for Saturninus, not because of any quality issues in his work but because he plays it in a manner that telegraphs his villainy..."

One of the criticisms of the play is that this is not Shakespeare at his most subtle so I enjoyed Cumming's portrayal. It's established pretty early on that Saturninus is a petty, vain, self-centered, vicious and ultimately clueless fool (look how easily Tamora dupes him into marrying her, how he misses her affair w/ Aaron, and how he utterly ignores the obvious reaction of Bassianus when he initially tries to marry Lavinia).

Matthew also wrote: "The universe in which it is set, mixing the ancient and modern, is interesting to look at but I don't know what it sought to accomplish. However, it did not seem to detract either...

I wasn't distracted by the ambiguous setting either. Perhaps its purpose was to contrast the decadent, amoral atmosphere of the emperor's court with Titus' purer, cleaner life. As I recall, the scenes with Titus and his confederates tended to take place in the more "primitive" settings while scenes with Tamora or Aaron took place in settings that looked vaguely 1930-ish (is that Art Deco? I'm not up on my interior design trends).

message 5: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Terence,

That's an interesting point about the decidedly unsubtle presentation of the brothers. I admit it hadn't occurred to me and it's been too long since I've seen the film to comment competently about it. I can say, however, that the lack of subtlety is something I would rather see a director overcome, rather than embrace. I also freely acknowledge that I might possibly feel differently if I were more of a Cumming fan. I suspect the only way to be sure is to say another production or two and then watch this film again.


Having worked as both an actor and a director, I can say from experience that quarrels between them are not always the actor's fault. I don't remember all the details now but Hopkins was quoted as saying of Taymor, "If this is how films are being directed now, it's time for me to retire." What she did to bring that on (or, indeed, if he was simply being petulant) is a mystery to everyone but Taymor and Hopkins.

message 6: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments Matthew wrote: "Terence,

That's an interesting point about the decidedly unsubtle presentation of the brothers. I admit it hadn't occurred to me and it's been too long since I've seen the film to comment compe..."

Hmmm...could be a case of Shakespeare idolatry. Can't mess with the Bard, you know :-)

message 7: by KM (new)

KM | 1 comments I would like to see the movie, a big Hopkins fan. Where can I find the DVD or video?

message 8: by Candy (last edited Jan 23, 2009 09:24AM) (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
I'm watching this in small bits...and I am actually really enjoying revisiting Cummings portrayal. I find it suits me at least.

Oh dear, Matthew...I knew when I posted a joke about Val Kilmer I was leaning too much, accidently on the idea it was the actor's fault. I did not mean to do so. Heh heh, I think the Hopkins quote is terrifically entertaining...although sad because it was likely under duress.

KM, although it wasn't a box office success , at all...the dvd should be at libraries or local rental shops. I was able to find a copy a few years ago.

I've had a rather exciting day yesterday...and events occured I wasn't sorry if I'm slow at getting into some meat in this movie.

You can read my fun news here if you are interested...who knows...after art making..I'd love to expand it to performance...but you'll have to read this link to see what the heck I'm talking about...(Matthew...I make short films and have taught acting. I am in the middle of a documentary...but have also ddone short films with my own scripts)

Here is my good news:

And just for fun...maybe one of you would get a kick out of a "workshop" video I did a couple of years's not a formal made film...I was working out ideas and so it's really a "sketch of ideas' if you will...

message 9: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I thought the "mixed media" approach to costumes and locations matched well the somewhat scrambled picture of Rome that Shakespeare gives us: Titus A is a hero of the early republic, stabbing his son for infidelity, but he exists in a world the seems to mix the savage debauchery of the early empire with the ineffective degeneracy of the later. Many of the locations, I believe, were from the

esposizione universale di roma

(if you put that in as a google images query, you'll see examples), a part of Rome I've never managed to get to.

I must say, I did not quite see the film as Matthew has done. For example, I thought Anthony Hopkins was not crazy enough as Titus A. I was very impressed with Jessica Lange. I've only otherwise seen her in Tootsie, and did not realise she was such a fine actress. A weakness I thought was Tamora's two surviving sons, done like crazed hoodlums from a Dirty Harry movie (same problem in the BBC version).

Candy, I really liked your short film up on youtube. Bertrand Russell says somewhere (drat! I cannot find where!) something like "The story of Cain and Abel is used to demonstrate the moral superiority of the nomad over the peasant."

message 10: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Martin, your complaint about Tamora's sons naturally inspires the question, how do you feel they should have been portrayed instead?

message 11: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments
Well, perhaps as princes from a violent society. For example, there are/used to be primitive headhunting societies. Young men would be encouraged to go off in hunting parties and come back with the heads of people from neighbouring tribes. But although strange to us, these societies had their own structure, own sense of virtue, own social hierarchy. So I'd have them alien, violent but aristocratic.

Well, that's interesting. Having written that I realise it describes Titus A himself ...

message 12: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments A fair point to be sure. But it is also worth considering the possibility that behavior which looks to our modern eyes like "crazed hoodlums from a Dirty Harry movie" is perfectly consistent with the aristocratic bearing of a prince from a violent society.

I am reminded of the story Brian Blessed told when preparing the role of Augustus in I, Claudius. It wasn't until the director whispered "Mafia" in his ear, that he found the bearing of the character. It was an effective analogy. Are we sure that Dirty Harry's hoodlums aren't as effective an analogy?

message 13: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments
Yes, but what does Brian Blessed really know about the mafia? I don't imagine he's experienced it at first hand in southern Italy. He was merely being invited to impersonate the familiar hollywood stereotypes. I notice that "mafia" occurs elsewhere in the discussions in "shakespeare fans", and one can imagine the sort of argument: Gloucester and Buckingham are powerful men who commit crimes, they are Shakespeare's equivalent of mafia bosses today, so let's do Richard III like "The Godfather". That will make it understandable to a modern audience. But of course, the world of the Godfather is no more real than the world of blank-verse speaking villains from the history plays. Similarly the Dirty Harry hoodlum is a stereotype, someone whose antics are merely designed to alienate any possible sympathy in the audience.

Well, that's what I think.

But Matthew, what about All's Well :-)

message 14: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments Martin wrote: "
Yes, but what does Brian Blessed really know about the mafia? I don't imagine he's experienced it at first hand in southern Italy. He was merely being invited to impersonate the familiar hollywood..."

I have a friend whose family is from Sicily. When we were graduate students in UCLA's history department, he always liked to say (and still does) that one can easily understand Roman history since the days of the Republic by looking at how the Mafia works.

message 15: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
In case others want to join in...watching Titus here are the YouTube page:

Is it true...can you find EVERYTHING on the internet?


message 16: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
p.s. Martin, I am trying to find that quote now by Russell. If you have any luck let me know...thanks for the heads up!

message 17: by Martin (last edited Jan 28, 2009 02:07PM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Candy, I have just gone through a shelf full of his books, most without indexes, and am happy to report that against all the odds I have found the quote. He actually said,

"The story of Cain and Abel is a piece of propaganda intended to show that shepherds are more virtuous than plougmen."

It is from In Praise if Idleness and Other Essays, Chapter 8 (Western Civilization), near the end of the 4th paragraph.

message 18: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
Oh are a hero!!!

You know what? I'm goning to go add that quote to my YouTube page right will make it sound like i actually know what I'm doing!

i love ya!

Oh gosh... hope someone will help us with this discussion..I blame myself.

As I said on another thread...I've been very busy catching up on recent movies in order to follow the Oscar show more familiarily. It really adds to the program if one has actually SEEN the nominated films.

I'm not far away and Titus is right here by my tv...

message 19: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Hi Candy,

I love the Oscars with the passion of a Trekkie or a comic book fanboy or any other such nerd. I've been watching them religiously since Gandhi won in 1982 (I was eight years old) and have never missed them since.

Upon my arrival in the cultural Mecca that is New York, I have made a point of seeing all five Best Picture nominees before the awards. I am never bored watching the Oscars. Those who insist the show is long and boring are usually the people who have the same feeling about the nominated movies.

If you ever come to New York at this time of year, I hope you will attend my Oscar party.

message 20: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
Holy! I would kill to attend your Oscar party, Matthew.

I was in New York this past August...and it can't be too soon to return. I went to the Dali/movie exhibit. The Buckminster Fuller show. The Guggie with retrospective of Louise Bourgeoisie. Spent afternoons having beer in the lower east side a place called "Patio" and "something Goat". Saw Steve Earle giving one of his tours. Interviewed an anthropologist, and a Chelsea gallery owner. Had a conference room for interviews at Algonquin Hotel.

I don't think I've missed an Oscar show since I was a kid either. I've even been traveling or on holiday and stayed in my hotel room in order to watch them! One time I watched the Oscars in New Orleans...when Cher won. I stayed in all night...until it was over then hit the French Quarter. I often had a party or went to one...but lately have enjoyed watching them on my own...getting every detail.

I believe Tilda Swinton may have saved the Oscars from pedestrian death. So many actors have becoem terrified of the press with their clothing...they all dress so middle of the road. I was thrillled to see Tilda Swinton last year like an vision in her own sense of style break out of the box. She'll be presenting this year, I can't wait to see what she wears.

By next Wednesday or so I should be in a position to discuss the nominated films. I've seen a lot of them but still have "Frozen River", "The Reader", "The Visitor" to watch as a couple of others.

Oddly enough...and boy is this weird...but I watched "Mamma Mia" the other day. And I really felt it had a lot of Shakespeare flavour. All it needed was a gender disguise!

Holding "mamma Mia" next to "Doubt" is a stunning exercise in observing the power of Meryl Streep. I realize I sound like an idiot saying "Streep is a great actor" duh...

but in "Doubt" she is off the chain! And then her exhuberance in MM is just crazy. She is an animal!

message 21: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 91 comments Candy,

The next time you're on the Lower East Side, I must take you to Kossar's Bialys and The Doughnut Plant. And, when it comes to having beer, you must go to McSorley's, the oldest continuously running drinking establishment in the city.

Although I was not personally a fan of Swinton's attire (or her performance for that matter), I agree with you 100% that the standards of dress at the Oscars have become a cowardly disgrace. Give me 80's decadence any day. But worst of all is the casualization of the Oscars. When did the word "tuxedo" involve a necktie? Or worse, an open collar?

message 22: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2629 comments Mod
Oh, hey...there are some major fashion blunders, so true. It's the risk I like! It wasn't that I thought Swinton's dress was fantastic as a choice or flattering for her at was the ART of it all!

I loved the 80's decadence...wasn't that when Demi Moore wore a strange combo of a bustier, a crinoline and what almost appeared to be bike shorts? Madonna wore such over the top earrings once, they fell off during her singing performance!

I look forward to a "Matthew tour" of NY someday!

message 23: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 18 comments I'm surprised no one has mentioned Harry J. Lennix's terrific Aaron. He is my absolute favorite part of the movie. Aaron is a roll that can fall into stereotype or one note villainy, but Lennix's performance was nuanced and complex, and never boring. Not to mention the fact that he spoke the text beautifully.

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