Reviewed by: Sarah Artt

Casanova begins promisingly. Heath Ledger, fresh from the homoerotic delights of Brokeback Mountain, dons three-quarter length trousers and a semi-transparent frilly shirt to play the famous lover. We see him hand feeding figs, dipped in whipped cream, to a young convent novice, while he assures her, "I don't conquer, I submit." (how very modern of him) Barely able to contain her excitement, the girl breathes: "But how can I be sure that you are Casanova?"

Cut to a scene of said novice being treated to the greatest sex of her life. Sadly, they are interrupted by the men in black, in this case, the gentlemen of the Holy Inquisition, who are seeking to arrest Casanova for his acts of heresy and licentiousness. As he escapes over the rooftops of Venice, his most recent lover is informed that she will receive eternal damnation for a single hour with Casanova, to which she replies that this "seems fair".

Copy picture

While hiding from the inquisitors, Casanova finds himself in the great hall of the university where a discussion of the place of women in society is underway. After declaring that women will never enter the university, Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller) reveals herself, tearing off her moustache and arguing for the higher education of women by quoting a local philosopher, Gaudi. Casanova is transfixed.

After his run-in with the Inquisition, the Doge of Venice (Tim McInnerny) cautions Casanova that he must now leave the city or marry a respectable woman. He soon begins courting Vittoria, a frustrated blonde virgin. However, his visit to Vittoria's father prompts the anger of their neighbour Giovanni Bruni, who has been secretly admiring Vittoria from afar. Giovanni challenges Casanova to a duel, but when they meet his opponent is soon revealed as Francesca, apparently a better swordsman than her brother - his talents will be revealed to us later.

Casanova soon discovers that Francesca is engaged to a wealthy cousin, Papprizio (Oliver Platt) the lard mogul of Padua, but that they have never met and Francesca is decidedly unhappy about the arrangement. This is complicated by her family's debts, which is why her mother (Lena Olin) urges Francesca to do her duty. When Papprizio arrives, Casanova intercepts him and leads him to believe that he is secretly the inflammatory philsopher Gaudi, who urges women to burn their corsets and that the real way to a woman's heart is to let her get a word in edgewise.

Anxious that Francesca will find his portliness unattractive, Papprizio begs Casanova to transform him. What follows is a scene of the poor man strapped to a table and covered in what looks like Tesco economy tzaziki dip. This leaves Casanova free to impersonate Papprizio, wooing the reluctant Francesca, all the while still technically engaged to Vittoria. I should also mention that Bishop Pucci (Jeremy Irons) has now taken over the office of the Inquisition in Venice, determined to arrest Casanova.

It all gets a bit confusing at this point, with numerous cases of mistaken identity and impersonation. Appropriately, much of the action takes place during the Carnival Ball, the tradtional time of license and festivity, for which Venice is reknowned. Without wishing to spoil the ending, it turns out that Giovanni (remember him? Francesca's wet brother, secretly in love with Vittoria, the frustrated virgin?) has a swordsman's talents after all, but not with a blade. Francesca dresses as a man once more and reveals herself as a heretic and there's a massive punch up in St Marks and Casanova's errant mother makes an appearance.

Go, to enjoy the expensive shots of Venice and its spectacular interiors and the camped up performances from Irons, Ledger and Platt.

This version of Casanova does lack the charmingly playful performance of David Tennant and the wit of Terence Davies's script in the BBC TV mini series, but then again Casanova's legend is certainly capacious enough to accommodate a few different versions!

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2006
Share this with others on...
Casanova packshot
Has the serial seducer finally met his match?
Amazon link

Read more Casanova reviews:

Darren Amner ***1/2
The Exile **

Director: Lasse Hallström

Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberley Simi

Starring: Heath Ledger, Sienna Millar, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Charlie Cox, Lena Olin, Ben Moor, Stephen Grief, Natalie Dormer, Lauren Cohan

Year: 2005

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Fellini's Casanova