Saturday, January 21, 2012
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as "Coriolanus", Shakespeare's tragic Roman general. The film takes place in modern day Serbia substituting for "a place called Rome". The warfare, costumes and sets are all modern but the language is the original Shakespeare. Another modern touch is the use of TV newscasters as the Greek chorus. The landscape is bleak to match the mood of the story but the acting is very powerful and Mr. Fiennes, along with his excellent cast hold your attention until the very end.
The film co-stars Gerald Butler as Tullus Aufidius, Coriolanus's sworn enemy, who is invading Rome at the beginning of the film. There is a wonderfully choreographed fight scene between the two men. Mr. Butler is fit for his role but under Mr. Fiennes direction, he whispers his lines which I found distracting. Also starring in key roles are Brian Cox as Senator Menenius, Jessica Chastin as Virgilia (Coriolanus's wife) and in a terrific role, Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, the general's mother. Ms. Chastin handles the language well but is becoming too predictable in the supporting wife role. Ms. Redgrave, on the other hand, has some key scenes that really shine and remind us of her ageless talent.
Mr. Fiennes favors close-ups framing just one or two actors, which is both powerful and yet claustrophobic at times. The climatic turning point of the film is very well staged and sets up the tragic conclusion beautifully.
If you enjoy Shakespeare with a modern twist (Ian McKellen's "Richard III" comes to mind), "Coriolanus" is for you.