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30 August 2007 @ 11:27 am
Aw no.  
So, after xiphias's post some time ago about Titus Andronicus, I added Titus to my Netflix queue.

Holy flurking schnit.

I'd heard that Titus Andronicus was one of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays. I didn't think anything could be worse than the "Out, vile jelly!" scene from Lear. But the image of Lavinia standing on the rock in the lake, handless, twigs jammed into her stumps, while Chiron and Demetrius taunt her to wash her hands-- dear God. That was horrifying.

About 3/4 of the way through, bstro said "And you think Sin City is too violent?" I did get a similar feeling from Titus that I did from Sin City, in that horrible things just. kept. happening. With no letup. But there was one important difference in the endings. In Titus, when Lucius is made emperor, there's a sense of closure, that after Aaron's punishment, all the death and maiming is now finished. Sin City ends with the implicit declaration that all are doomed, that there will never be an end to the death. Nothing can ever be set to rights, because there is no right.

I think Lavinia got a worse deal than Desdemona, and that's saying something. I was actually glad when Titus killed her, because her life was too horrific and bizarre to be borne.

On a shallower note, I found Jonathan Rhys Myers, as always, gorgeous and sexy, even with that dreadful bleach job. And, of course, his character was evil and disgusting. But very pretty.
I can hear: Disturbed, "Darkness"
Kayefreak_in_need on August 30th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)

I find it odd that I can watch violence with little to no pukish reactions, but hearing it described in writing gives me the jibblies. I suspect if Sin City had been a book I may not have been able to finish it. Go figure.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 30th, 2007 04:31 pm (UTC)
It was. A graphic novel, anyway.
Kayefreak_in_need on August 30th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
Okay yeah, I knew that. Even read a couple. But it's still pictures of violence, and not words describing them.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 30th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
There are two ways we've seen the Lavinia death dealt with in performance, by the way.

The Welesley College production which was costumed with Romans as Cowboys and Goths as Indians -- but not historical ones -- 50s Western Movies ones. It worked so freakin' well, since you had this immediate identification as "Goths=Barbarians, Romans=Civilized -- except the Romans are every bit as barbaric as the Goths, and that came through, too.

Naturally, since it's an all-female college, the play was all female.

The other production we saw was the Actor's Shakespeare Project production, which was done in a black-and-gray set design, with stones and ropes around, with the stones symbolizing violence and weapons, and the ropes symbolizing power over other people. Instead of blood, they used water -- which somehow failed to make it any less horrifying. Oh, and it was done as an all-male production.

Anyway, in the Actor's Shakespeare Project, the way they played it was, when Titus was talking about whether that random Roman who killed his disgraced daughter was doing the right thing, Lavinia was walking over to him carrying a knife in her stumps. And then, after Saturnius said that, yes, he HAD done the right thing, she holds out the knife, drops to her knees, and bares her neck.

In the Welesley one, by contrast, as Titus is asking that, Lavinia is standing across the stage, and is looking vaguely confused with a "where's he going with this" look on her face, and when Saturnius says yes, Titus whirls, draws, and shoots Lavinia from across the stage. Then he turns back and does the whole speech about how Lavinia was even MORE disgraced with his back to her, as she slumps down the wall with a shocked look on her face, blood dripping out of her mouth, untill she finally collapses.

I actually liked the Welesley interpretation better.

Also, watching that scene at the end just CRIES out for Rocky Horror treatment: "Tamora gets it! Lucius gets it! Saturnius gets it, but he's hungry!"

"Lucius, in the dining room, with the candlestick."

And then, as the camera pans over the carniage: "Wow. Titus throws the best parties!"
Elle: Dorian Greytheletterelle on September 5th, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
Wow. The Wellesley version would have been much harder to watch, but it really sounds more thematically appropriate. The movie left it vague, but I think she donned the black veil as a symbol of her own death. That's how I want to think of it anyway.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 30th, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC)
Also, one way that I know that I am just not right in the head:

I consider both Richard III and Titus Andronicus to be very, very dark comedies.

I mean, the scene where they have to carry two heads and a hand off the stage, and one of them has two hands, so he gets a head, and one of them has one hand, so he gets a head, and the last of them has no hands, so she carries the hand in her teeth -- that's funny. Sick, sick, sick, but funny.

At least, for me, that's where it's just. . . you're watching the play, and horror after horror is stacking up, and, right about there, I snap, and start laughing.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 30th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
And finally: (I keep hitting "post" and then remembering I had one more thing to say)

"One of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays?" Didn't you hear Lis and me calling it "The Roman Chainsaw Massacre?" Did you think we were joking?

Look -- this is Nightmare on Via Ulmus. It's Saw, Part Negative XXIX. It was designed as a slasher-play, to compete with Marlowe's Massacre at Paris. It's gross-out-torture-porn like Hostel, only Shakespeare wrote it.

Meaning that, besides the simple gross-out bits, he ALSO puts in the psychological horror of Titus going totally batshit insane, too.

The genre of the play isn't "tradgedy" like it's listed: it's "horror".
Elle: Come ONtheletterelle on September 5th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
I don't think I heard that, no. :) I don't know; when it comes to blood and gore, I just get more depressed and horrified and never snap into "Oh, come ON" mode. No matter how ridiculous the death, I can't help but take it seriously.

Hah, I like Saw Part Negative XXIX. :)
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on September 6th, 2007 03:54 am (UTC)
Hmph. I was particularly proud of "Nightmare on Via Ulmus."
Baron Aloha: Hi.ultramang on August 30th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
One of the few things I didn't like about 300 is that they borrowed the opening music cues from Titus. For one, I don't think it fit, two... if you hire a composer, make him work for the money? That's all I'm saying.
Elle: Devil's daughtertheletterelle on September 5th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
Hey, Rob thought the opening sounded like 300. I guess he was right. :)
athanata on August 31st, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
whenever I think of Titus Andronicus, I think of this Japanese production where they used red strings to represent blood - and it worked SO INCREDIBLY WELL.

string never looked so...gory...

Elle: Blue Dawntheletterelle on September 5th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, like xiphias said above re the water, it doesn't take away from the horror. I wonder why that is? You'd think it would give some distance, using another medium, but it doesn't seem to.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on September 6th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
I think it's the nature of the stage. I don't think that the use of water, or ribbon, would work on film. But there's something about live stage performance which just lends itself to metaphor and symbolism. And because the stage and symbolism go so well together, something symbolizing blood and violence has all the impact of real blood and violence -- if not even MORE, somehow, since it is a symbol representing the essence of blood and violence, not just an instance of it.

That doesn't work in film. Film is a literal medium. Mostly. Which is why movies and television shows which use the camera as an unreliable narrator -- like Rashamon, Mimento, or even most episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" -- can be so very interesting.

Symbolism can work in photographs, which is why that photo is so effective.