Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, 2012)

What's it about? General Caius Martius Coriolanus returns from war a hero and is elected to political office. However, his uncompromising nature means he will not tow the party line and his political rivals scheme against him. Driven into exile, he swears bloody revenge.


Is it any good? Fiennes has chosen a tough assignment for his directorial debut. Take one of Shakespeare's densest, least popular tragedies, update it to a contemporary setting, yet retain ye olde dialogue of the play? Pray, good sir, doest it work? Well, there's no denying it's an intelligent updating, demonstrating that political machinations, war-mongering and issues surrounding the nation state are as relevant now as they were when the play was written. The hand-held, documentary-style camerawork adds a visual impact, and the use of TV footage smartly mimics modern news coverage of various war zones across the world. It most obviously brings to mind images of the Balkan conflicts of the 90s (indeed, it was filmed on location in Serbia), although there are also more recent parallels with various uprisings in the Arab Spring. However, despite this relevance to today's world, the things that made it unpopular in Shakespeare's time make it hard to warm to now too. It's difficult to care for any of the characters, who are all unlikeable and unsympathetic. Shakespeare's dialogue doesn't always sit entirely easily alongside the modern setting, and, even with your ear attuned to the language, it feels clunkier than Shakespeare's better-known writings and doesn't really drive the plot along. That's no fault of the actors, though. Fiennes' glowering, heavy-lidded features bring a brutal intensity to the title role, Vanessa Redgrave shows her class as Coriolanus' scheming mother and Gerard Butler's Scottish burr lends itself suprisingly well to the text. Still, it all felt a bit like those Shakespeare plays I had to study at school. I could appreciate the effort that went into it, but it was hard to get very excited about it.

Anything else I should know? Can't be bothered with it? Here's my version of Brodie's Notes on the film.
What to say : A brave, if not entirely successful, attempt to update the play to a contemporary drama about war, politics and the nation state.
What not to say : Hur, hur. He said anus.
Or, if you want a bit of homework, here's the film's stars discussing the project.


What does the Fonz think? Is this a thumb I see before me? Not quite.


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