[FILM: Review] Coriolanus
Opens March 8
Despite being one of Shakespeare’s least lyrical, romantic or comedic plays, and furnishing the canon with one of its most inscrutable and difficult heroes, Coriolanus – reignited on screen by director and leading man Ralph Fiennes – is absolutely mesmerising. Or perhaps it’s precisely because of these things… All the razor sharp wit and language of Shakespeare is there, with the big emotions and ideas – but attached to a powder keg of politics, power and war. Add a protagonist every bit as fascinating as Lear or Hamlet, and Coriolanus is very well suited to Fiennes’ modern adaptation, which places it somewhere in the Balkans, circa the ‘90s.
Our (anti)hero is Caius Martius (Fiennes), a general of the Roman army who is renowned for his bloody resolve, and his exceeding capacity for war; a warrior-hero, who lives to kill, rather than killing to live. Martius is so dedicated to the art of war, in a society that relies on war to sustain its power and wealth, that he’s just a hair’s breadth away from being given the powers of a Consul – until his frank refusal to play the populist card (and more than a little political and media manipulation by ‘faceless men’) puts him on the wrong side of the Roman public. Banished from Rome and stripped of his title, he makes the fascinating decision to risk everything in an act of bloody revenge against the State, with the help of his long time enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler).
Fiennes rips the screen to shreds as Martius, a part he played on stage a little over a decade ago. In a way this play is about the seductiveness of this particular combination of blood-thirst and pride, for those in close proximity to it and to the general public who depend on it. And as an audience, we’re not totally repulsed by Martius – we have to respect him, at the very least, as someone who has principles and integrity. But compassion and diplomacy are about as much his purview as unicorns and cupcakes – so he presents as a tragically flawed character.
Equally interesting is the constellation of conspirators and foils around Fiennes’ Martius, including a mother who has dedicated her life to his success but would herself be better suited to the role of Consul, and a senator who is equal parts his partner, manipulator and consigliore – fleshed out by an incredible support cast that includes Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain.
Posted: March 12th, 2012 under Arts, Brag 452 (March 5), Film Reviews.
Tags: Brian Cox, Coriolanus, Dee Jefferson, Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Ralph Fiennes, Shakespeare, The Brag, Vanessa Redgrave