Julius Caesar as a Feature Article

One Man’s Heroic Acts is another’s Villainous Deeds

Danny arrives a few minutes early. We meet and greet, then get down to business. Danny Boyle, Oscar winning director is at the helm of the next Julius Caesar movie adaptation. Caesar’s death has always been one that is subjected to the full force of human subjectivity, so I ask Danny how he intends to portray the film.

“I think what makes Caesar interesting is that he is both a saviour and a tyrant, and I want the film to have these conflicting perspectives so that audience can decide for themselves.”

“In JC the conflict lies in Caesar’s duality as a hero and a potential menace. Those who oppose Caesar use a variety of colourful descriptions to convey their fear and paranoia. Flavius notes, “Caesar…who will soar far above the view of men… (Whom) keep us in fearfulness.” One of the great thinkers of the time, Cicero thought the same, “Like a colossus and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.” It’s a great metaphor, because Caesar is that powerful compared to the senate. The guy who murders him, Cassius describes Caesar, as “I know he may not be a wolf, but he sees Romans as sheep.” Using the parable of wolf and sheep to indicate the dangers of tyranny.

I ask Danny if he thinks Caesar is a villain then.

“There is just as much indication that Caesar could really be a saviour of Rome. The verbal irony by Cassius, who sarcastically remarks, “If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less.” Goes to show the support that Caesar has among the plebeians. The anecdote by Anthony “Caesar shall forth the things that threaten me, never looked but on my back when they shall see the face of Caesar they are vanished.” Allows us to see how much faith Romans placed in Caesar.”

What about Brutus? He may not be as well known as Caesar, but the immortal lines “Et tu Brutus!” makes him as significant as JC himself.

“Ah,” Nods Danny, “Brutus he is an honest man doing an evil deed for the good of all. The metaphor the serpent allegorically proves why Caesar must die. “Think him a serpent’s egg which hatched … would grow mischievous… (I) Must kill him in the shell”. Describing his involvement in the murder of a great man as a last resort to do a good deed. “It must be his (Caesar’s) death I know no personal cause but for the general”. Its about doing the necessary actions even if you know its wrong.”

“The bad guy is Cassius.” Danny exclaims excitedly. “He is a jealous man murdering Caesar for his own gain. The result is the same, but the conflict lies in the motive. Cassius expresses his view through the metaphor “This man is now becoming a God and Cassius is a wretched creature.” Showing his bitterness and jealousy. Cicero construes his actions as “Men (who) construe things after their fashion clean from the purpose of things themselves”. On the other hand, Brutus is torn between conscience and action.”

I ask him how he would compare the same ideas expressed in the film about conflicting perspectives elsewhere. He looks at me curiously.

“Recently I read an Good Weekend, the article I believe was Another Country by John Van Tiggeden. I think this text offers a pretty good dichotomy of the same ambiguity of human nature, and the duality of perspectives.”

I had not read the article and ask Danny to explain.

“Well, it’s about this Aboriginal community over in Queensland. There this guy called Father MacKenzie is a missionary who arrived in the rural country of Aurukun to teach the local aboriginal population English and western civility. Then the government introduces a shire council that wants to remove him from the community to preserve Aboriginal culture. The article juxtaposes the conflicting development of Aurukun to illustrate the effects of the disputed political perspective that shapes aboriginal communities. The irony of the story lies in that initially MacKenzie was praised for putting an end to traditional practices such as wife lending, but the council forcibly expelled MacKenzie from Aurukun. The result was civil anarchy conveyed through a melodramatic twist.  “Beer replaced Church, dough replaced equal paid jobs”, the use of juxtaposing symbols such as church and beer, dough and jobs show how the government screw up. The article ends sarcastically “How can this country have not seen this train wreck coming?”

Danny adds empathetically. “There are many examples of heroes and villains in today’s world, they are normally the same person, just matters which perspective you look from.”

I ask him what sort of film he wants to make.

“I want to make a film like Forest Gump, by Zemisky” He replies without a pause.

“Its all about ambiguity.” Boyle responds, “For example the film uses a series of scenes each indicative of an iconic period of American life to offer new perspective on American History. For example, the Little Rock scene is one of immense historical importance because it was the forced integration of blacks and whites into schools. Among the historical footage of the original riot and the deployment of the national guard, the film superimposes Forrest into the scene. He helps a black woman, and carries her luggage to the dismay of his enraged white colleagues. The result is humour and irony, as well as a new perspective on a historically important event.”

“Furthermore,” Danny replies enthusiastically, you can see he really loved the film. “Another example of this dramatic irony is when Forrest returns from Vietnam. While historically Vietnam War is seen as a disaster, the movie constructs it as a sentimental and character forming part of Forrest’s life. When confronted by anti-war protesters, Forrest is portrayed through the still close-ups and powerful low-angle shots as stoic and innocent, while the protesters are portrayed as profiteers and miscreants.”

“Its about how we can view something through so many different perspectives and get so many private and individual responses.”

My time is up, but I have gained insight into just how conflicting perspectives is going to make this film a winner. Danny is looking forward to the next Oscars. I think I’ll go and read Julius Caesar again, and then watch Forest Gump.






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