Directors Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani
The theater in Rome’s Rebibbia Prison. A performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar has just ended amidst much applause. The lights dim on the actors and they become prisoners once again as they are accompanied back to their cells.
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
The warden and a theater director speak to the inmates about a new project, the staging of Julius Caesar in the prison. The first step is casting, a process both vivid and energetic. The second step is exploration of the text. Shakespeare’s universal language helps the inmate-actors to identify with their characters. The path is long and full of anxiety, hope and play. These are the feelings accompanying the inmates at night in their prison cells after each day of rehearsal.
Who is Giovanni who plays Caesar? Who is Salavtore-Brutus? For which crimes have they been sentenced to prison? The film does not hide this.
The wonder and pride for the play do not always free the inmates from the exasperation of being incarcerated. Their angry confrontations put the show in danger. On the anticipated but feared day of opening night, the audience is numerous and diversified: inmates, actors, students, directors.
Julius Caesar is brought back to life but this time on a stage inside a prison. It’s a success.
The inmates return to their cells. Even ‘Cassius,’ one of the main characters, one of the best. He has been in prison for many years, but tonight his cell feels different, hostile. He remains still. Then he turns, looks into the camera and tells us: “Since I have known art, this cell has turned into a prison.”