Shakespeare is one of the few archaic writers I enjoy. His plays have real energy and colour and his powerful, poetic dialogue certainly shines through in this: the first film adaptation of one of his more obscure works of which I’ve never heard of but I’m glad I’ve seen.
What also makes this film unusual is that it is actor Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut. This play adaptation is an interesting choice and a dark, powerful opening to his career. The play tells the story of an ancient Roman general, Marcius Coriolanus, and the film updates this true historical character to modern day Rome. Coriolanus, played with passion by Fiennes, is a proud patriot who believes in defending Rome but despises the common people. The film opens with him denying them grain. The riot scenes that follow reminded me of the global protests dominating news screens recently. Anchorman Jon Snow even stars, his footage consisting of Shakespearean dialogue. Other British actors play parts, such as Gerard Butler, who plays Aufidius, Coriolanus’ and Rome’s sworn enemy, bizarrely in his native Scottish accent. Brian Cox plays Coriolanus’ long suffering friend and supporter, trying to improve Coriolanus’ public image. James Nesbitt plays one of Coriolanus’ determined challengers and Vanessa Redgrave gives an impressive performance as Volumnia, Coriolanus’ strong-willed mother.
This is one of Shakespeare’s more political plots placed in familiar surroundings. It is heavy to sit through and sometimes anti climatic but it has strong performances, dramatic speeches, brutal violence and relevant, powerful themes.