Titus (R) 1999
Reviewer’s Tilt (8)
Special DVD Features worth a look-Director Commentary
Imagine Shakespeare on acid, directing Hannibal Lector in an MTV version of Sweeney Todd. This will give you some idea of what Titus is all about. In this breakneck from the Bard, Shakespeare possesses his pitiful cast of characters with crazed revenge. Through their bloodlust, they cannot see the destruction their vengeance wreaks on their own families and broken souls. In the opening scene, Roman General Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) has returned from defeating the Goths, with their Queen, Tamora, (Jessica Lange), her three sons, and a Moor (Harry Lennix). Over the Queen’s protests, Titus orders the grisly execution of her eldest son.
With Emperor Caesar recently deceased, Rome elects the war hero Titus as its next Emperor. Instead of accepting the title however, Titus abdicates the throne to dead Caesar’s eldest son Saturninus (Alan Cumming). When Saturninus selects Tamora as his bride, Tamora plots her vengeance on Titus and his family. This is where the fun really begins. Be prepared, however, this is atypical Shakespearean fare. Like Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo & Juliet, Titus contains much surrealism and many modern touches, most of which are great additions to the story. I mean, what could be better than Hannibal Lector as a bloodthirsty general, Goths with guns and a dead ringer for Pee-Wee Herman as the Roman Emperor? While most of these artistic flourishes work, some, like the opening scene, do not.
Casting disapproval on the violence subjected upon today’s youth, the opening scene should, like Titus itself, be over the top, highlighting the violence in the video games, gangs, movies and domestic disputes many children experience everyday. Ketchup on toy robots simply does not convey the requisite feeling. Fortunately, such minor flaws are few and far between. Hopkins, Lange, Lennix and Cumming are mesmerizing. If you like Shakespeare, the quality and complexity of this material will keep you entertained across multiple viewings.
Format: Color, Widescreen Anamorphic, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital 5.1), (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Extras: Director commentary, minor commentary by Hopkins and Lennix, director interview, Making of featurette, costumes, trailer.