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Taymor's Titus And Violence Essay

1731 words - 7 pages

Reacting to Violence as an Audience

Violent films, even of the most basic construction, share the common goal of attracting the attention of viewers in a way that leaves an impression. As viewers become more and more desensitized to images of violence, though, it is more and more difficult for directors to achieve that goal. For Julie Taymor, in her film “Titus,” violence was only a part of the overall impression she wanted to give her audiences. In the film, violence is used to catch the audience’s attention by way of shock value, but also through other factors. With the addition and extension of several scenes, and a focus on modern influence, we as audience members are able to ...view middle of the document...

He watches the opening scene in stunned awe, much in the same way that audiences, feasibly, first reacted to violence as a form of entertainment. Later, young Lucius is unable to tear his eyes away as Titus goes through the traditional process preceding Alarbus’s murder; he is again found peeking through the window in the scene right before Titus has Aaron cut off his own hand. Lucius’s connection to the violence surrounding Titus in particular is significant because Titus’s violent actions are representative of the pain being done not only to himself and his family, but to Rome and its crumbling regime. If Lucius, then, is the machine for modern interpretation, we can clearly see the link between our own deteriorating ability to experience the horror and fear associated with violence in much the same way that we see young Lucius become desensitized to the maniacal revenge schemes that are played out as the story unfolds.

Perhaps of most interest with concern to young Lucius’s transformation is the boy’s expanded role in the banquet scene with Titus, Marcus, and Lavinia. Instead of Marcus killing the fly, it is Lucius who does so, delivering the lines, “Alas, my lord, I have but killed a fly” then responding to Titus’s disapproval with, “Pardon me, sir; it was a black ill-favoured fly, / like to the Empress’ Moor; therefore I killed him” (3.2.59-67). With this act, young Lucius takes his first major stance in the film. The fact that his first show of decisiveness is the spontaneous decision to kill something is indicative of a much larger statement on the ease with which one is able to slip from observer to actor in the case of violence. In fact, even before the dinner scene, little Lucius is shown in the woodcarver’s shop, contemplating the dismembered body parts spread out on the table, finally picking up a set of hands for Lavinia. This additional scene gives us a visual demonstration of the process by which we learn to evaluate what is in front of us; in this case the blatant use of body imagery drives home the contrast of a young boy’s innocence with the violent experiences he faces. Young Lucius’s decision to help his aunt by bringing her the wooden hands is representative of his transformation from bystander to player. This can be considered as a warning to active viewers, who are able to associate themselves with Lucius, and perhaps foresee the negative impulses engineered by the constant themes of violence in film today.

In order to draw attention to the role an impact of violence in “Titus” and in the media in general, Taymor highlights, and even lengthens, several of the more violent scenes of the play. The heightened violence at times such as the scene surrounding Alarbus’s sacrifice serve to instill a feeling of dread in the audience, proving that even the bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays must be made more graphic in order to derive a reaction from a modern, desensitized audience. Additionally, Lavinia’s rape...

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