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DVD Reviews - 'The Wall' and 'Caesar Must Die'

'The Wall' - Beautiful, absorbing, mysterious and eerily captivating. 'Caesar Must Die' -unique, compelling, riveting and Winner of the Golden Globe at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.

'The Wall' - Beautiful, absorbing, mysterious and eerily captivating. 'Caesar Must Die' -unique, compelling, riveting and Winner of the Golden Globe at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.

Director: Julian Roman Polster Cast: Martina Gedeck, Ulricke Beimpold, Wolfgang M. Bauer Genre: Drama Country of Origin: Germany Official Austrian Entry 2013 Foreign Language Oscar, Winner Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Berlin Film Festival 2012 Language : German with English subtitles 108 mins. Rating:****

"Hypnotic, stunningly beautiful, complex, absorbing, captivating, a new reality" - unique.

We know nothing of the unnamed Austrian woman Frau (Martina Gedeck) who's invited to a secluded alpine hunting lodge with her cousin Luise (Ulrike Beimpold) and the latter's husband Hugo (Karl Heinz Hackl). Soon after arriving Luise and Hugo set off to walk to the village. Mysteriously the couple don't return and assuming that they've stayed overnight Frau sets off for the village and discovers a mysterious invisible wall which confines her to a few square miles of mountainside behind which there's no sign of life. The external world is frozen - an old man stands forever collecting water from a well whilst his wife sits motionless on the balcony frozen in time. Frau is alone save for a pregnant cow and Luchs, a Bavarian mountain dog with whom she forms a complex and emotional bond and two cats. She must adapt to the new reality, harvest the generosity of the forest and hunt.

Is Frau a contemporary female Robinson Cruscoe or is it sci-fi? Did Luise and Hugo leave Luchs at the lodge knowing that they wouldn't return? Is Frau loosing her sanity ? Is she turning into another kind of being?

Told mainly in flashbacks with a voice-over narrration, it's hypnotic and filled with beautiful images and a deep sense of mystery- nine cinematographers filmed through several years of mountain seasons and the edited results are stunning. Against this there are haunting images that remain in the mind and add to the mystery - the white crow that's an outcast, darkness closing in, the seasons changing, distant shots of Frau and Luchs almost suggestive of medieval toil in the fields and an unexpected and terrifying finale.

Martina Gedeck as the nameless character (Frau) gives a tour-de-force performance bringing a vivid intensity to this study of loneliness, fear and survival. But we mustn't forget Bella the pregnant cow, the bullock she gives birth to, the two cats and Luchs (Luchs vom Kyffhauserbach), the wonderful Bavarian mountain dog who's pivotal to this remarkable story.

Adapted from Marlen Haushofer's acclaimed 1963 novel that explores the experience of solitude and isolation, 'The Wall' is a remarkable, mysterious and captivating piece of cinema.

Frau's fate remains unknown.

Released on DVD by New Wave Films 25th November 2013

Director: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani Cast: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri Genre: Drama Country of Origin: Italy Winner Golden Globe Berlin Film Festival 2012, Winner Best Film, Director and Producer 2012 Italian Oscars, Official Selection Italy 2013 Academy Awards Language : Italian with English subtitles 76 mins. Rating:****

"Riveting from the opening frame, emotional, edgy" - a remarkable piece of cinema.

'Caesar Must Die' is Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's first film for six years and they've come up with a stunning work that blends documentary and drama and was a worthy winner of the coveted Golden Globe at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.

Each year the inmates of Rome's high security wing of Rebibbia prison,incarcerated mostly for Mafia and Camorra related crimes including murder and drug dealing put on a play. The Taviani brothers follow the rehearsals and performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar using the prison as their stage to recreate ancient Rome. Such a setting offers a remarkable intensity and stresses the lack of freedom contrasting with the prisoners emerging visible and emotional liberation during rehearsals and in the performance.

The film opens and closes in colour, the central core being rehearsals filmed in black and white. The inmates/actors take on their roles with passion and enthusiasm and discover the essence of their characters in a play where the conspiracies and betrayals echo in many ways their past and present lives.

The vigorous and electrifying rehearsals lead to rapturous applause at the end of the performance which movingly contrasts with the prisoners returning to their cells. Cosimo Rega (Cassius) faces the camera to remark:

'Since I discovered art, this cell has become a prison'.

It's a remarkable piece of cinema that deserves to be seen by many. It's only 76 minutes long being an edited version of the play and doesn't require literary scholarship or a love of Shakespeare. The prison setting and the initial frame by frame discovery of the inmates/actors crimes draws you into their world and makes their portrayal of 'Caesar Must Die' unique and powerful - it is the power of art.

Released on DVD by New Wave Films 25th November 2013

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