«To be or to be?» by Leyla Begim

«To be or to be?» by Leyla Begim

Passed down in history through the myth of the eternal seducer, Giacomo Casanova, who was born in Venice and died in Duchcov, Czech Republic, was a prolific intellectual, author of verse, pamphlets and memoirs, who lived and narrated a momentous turning point in history.

Leyla Begim’s “To Be or To Be?” is a mesmerizing cinematic odyssey that breathes new life into the legendary figure of Giacomo Casanova.

Far from the stereotypical libertine, Casanova is here reimagined as a wise traveler and writer, seeking not fleeting pleasures but eternal truths. The premise is as intriguing as it is audacious: at 298 years old, an immortal Casanova can finally cross time and geography to explore and retrace the trail he left in life.

The film opens with Casanova’s landing on Earth, setting the tone with breathtaking images that seem both timeless and anchored in the mysticism of ancient cities. The director skillfully blends history, philosophy and literary fiction to invite viewers on a profound journey, from the old cobblestones of Prague to the mystical airs of Baku, in search of enlightenment. Between two civilizations closer than they may seem.

Numerous historical stages the hero touches on his journey, from the Temple of Fire to the Tower of the Virgin, as his reflections delve into the heart of human existence, questioning the immortal and the ephemeral. The dialogue is full of philosophical musings that may put some viewers off, but those willing to engage will be deeply rewarded. The script deftly weaves quotes from Casanova’s translation of the booklet of “Zoroastre” (one of his many literary labors) using them as keys to unlock deeper layers of meaning in his journey.

The director effectively uses light and shadow, illustrating the dualities Casanova contemplates: life and death, temporal and eternal, West and East. The pace of the film is deliberate, almost meditative, which may not suit all tastes, but certainly sets it apart, and allows the audience to fully absorb the deep themes and breathtaking images.

It is a bold and philosophical exploration that transcends geographical, temporal and spiritual boundaries. What Casanova taught us is that when one travels the world driven by the pursuit of love, there are no boundaries.