The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0366 Monday, 21 February 2000.
Date: Friday, 18 Feb 2000 16:15:01 -0700
Subject: Re: Taymor on Titus
I cannot understand the praise for Taymor's work.
Ms. Heather James has recently posted her appreciation for the opening
scenes of the movie in which Saturninus and Bassianus are rivaling not
only for status, but for a form of government in Rome... I found Taymor
seriously LACKING in getting this important message across. In fact,
when the Titus bestows his favor upon Saturninus it is not made clear
WHY. The audience is not given any reason to understand that Titus is a
traditional and ritualistic man; that he does not chose Saturninus
because he likes him-but because he is the elder son and therefore
entitled by tradition to succeed the throne.
Another botched scene soon follows when Titus kills Mutius. Taymor does
not make clear that Mutius is Titus' son, until after his death (in the
crypt). Furthermore, this is a POWERFUL event that gives the audience
insight into Titus' character. Taymor FAILS to focus on Mutius' reaction
to being stabbed by his OWN FATHER.
Does Taymor forget that there is an audience? I mean, an audience that
is trying to follow the plot? Or is she just too wrapped up with her own
sparkle and glimmer (Ex: the superfluous scene in which we see Chiron,
Demetrius, and Aaron playing pool, video games and listening to loud
music without ANY dialogue. What is this? Is Taymor simply trying to say
"their hip, wild men." Why does she need to create a scene to do
Taymor's flashy effects, although impressive, should have been secondary
to the action and interpretation of the play-however, the effects
superseded the action of the film. As for her work with prostheses that
Ms. James notes-although pretty, are unnecessary. The never-ending
scene of young Lucius obtaining Lavinia's wooden hands-although touching
It seems that Ms. James also lauds Taymor's lack of violence,
specifically referring to the editing of Marcus' speech in the post-rape
scene. This, of all aspects, was an atrocity of the film. Marcus'
speech is completely NECESSARY, for it in the audience is able to
understand what has happened to Lavinia. Whether Marcus' speech is used
as a tool to help the audience avoid the horror that Lavinia has become
(with his elaborate Ovidian conceits) or is it a way in which Lavinia's
tragedy is magnified (by forcing us to LOOK at her)-- it is important
just the same. There has been so much work on this scene that it seems
that Taymor should have made a clear directorial choice. But, true to
form, she waffles on it and, it seems to me, cuts it for convenience
without any dramatic intention.
But, what does it matter? Since most of the actors seemed not even to
understand what they were speaking and only knew that they were on
I can go on and on about the failures of the film. But I will not...
unless provoked (smirk).
Again, I give Taymor credit for doing Titus Andronicus. But I don't give
her anything for the way in which she did it.
P.S. Can someone PLEASE offer some insight into the delivery of heads
and hands scene of Taymor's film? What is going on with the little
truck, the young girl, the megaphone, the carnival music? Was it
completely random and absurd? Is there an allusion to something that I
am missing? Is Taymor just imitating another film director?