Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Osheen Jones, Dario D'Ambrosi, Raz Degan
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 162 minutes
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
Oh villains, Chiron and Demetrius. Here stands the spring whom you have stained with mud, this goodly summer with your winter mixed. You killed her husband, and for that vile fault two of her brothers were condemned to death, my hand cut off and made a merry jest, both her sweet hands, her tongue, and that more dear than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity, inhuman traitors, you constrained and forced. What would you say if I should let you speak? Villains, for shame, you could not beg for grace. Hark, wretches, how I mean to martyr you. This one hand yet is left to cut your throats whilst that Lavinia, 'tween her stumps doth hold the basin that receives your guilty blood. You know, your mother means to feast with me and calls herself Revenge and thinks me mad. Hark, villains. I shall grind your bones to dust, and with your blood and it I shall make a paste, and of the paste a coffin I will rear and make two pastries of your shameful heads. And bid that strumpet, your unhallowed dam, like to the earth, swallow her own increase! This is the feast I have bid her to, and this the banquet she shall surfeit on.... And now prepare your throats.