If you've seen the preview trailer for Casanova, you may be left with the impression the movie is an action adventure with a little romance on the side--kind of like Zorro with zest. After viewing however, it's apparent the film is more focused on sex-play than swordplay.
Considering the womanizing reputation of the title character, this really isn't unexpected. Nor should the script's lack of historical accuracy come as a complete shock (although it is true Casanova did live in Venice at various times during his life and was prolific in his diary about the many females he pursued). Instead this adaptation presents a fanciful tale where our handsome suitor (played by Heath Ledger) hides from the prosecuting intents of the evil Catholic Bishop Pucci (Jeremy Irons). The man of the cloth feels the renowned seducer is one of the chief causes of debauchery in Venice, and is determined to bring him to justice--meaning death.
But on a local level, our hero is admired. Even the nuns at a nearby convent are secretly hoping he will show up for a brief visit, commenting that eternal damnation "seems worth it" for a night of passion with Casanova. Such sentiments rankle religious officials whose wrath leaves the lover with only one choice: Find a "respectable" woman to marry and settle down for a spell. The beautiful Francesca (Sienna Miller) catches his attention, but to make his way into her heart, Casanova is forced to take on a new persona--namely that of her unseen fianc0xE9.
The ongoing plot involves continuous occurrences of mistaken identity, and requires the audience to assume Venetians must be blind, for they cannot identify a man if he covers his eyes with a small mask.
Possibly the production's greatest surprise is that the R-rated film doesn't contain more sex. Visual depictions include two brief incidents of sexual activity (without nudity), and another extended scene showing a man sitting at a table while a woman hidden underneath sexually stimulates him. The rest of such content is verbal innuendo with plenty of talk about the infamous playboy's ability to seduce anyone he pleases.
Much of the film is spent watching Casanova's escapades and endeavors to unravel his lies so he can manage to win the girl in the end. Catholic clergymen play a part in the story as well, but always as bad guys and buffoons. Although the leaders' involvement with laws of state (such as enforcing censorship by death) may be widely accepted as a misuse of authority by contemporary audiences, the negative light in which this church is shown may offend some viewers.
Of course what's missing in the script are consequences for the romancer's favorite pastime. In reality, Casanova suffered from many forms of sexual diseases (and it's safe to assume his multitude of mistresses did as well). Despite the efforts to market this film as more adventurous than alluring, behind the mask it is still the legend of a man whose name became synonymous with illicit lover.