Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes

<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>

Directed by Ralph Fiennes. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain.

Based on one of Shakespeare’s tragic plays and brought into a contemporary but still fictional setting, Coriolanus is not everyone’s cup of tea. Critics will love it, audiences maybe less so. Such is the order of things…

“What’s the movie we’re going to watch? Coriolanus. HAHA. He said ‘anus’.” Okay, now that that’s out of my system on to Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut. What a way to start off, with a Shakespearean tragedy, in the old English but set in the modern day. Fiennes also acts as the titular protagonist Roman General Caius Martius Coriolanus – the last title given to him after his victory in the town of Corioli over the insurgent Volscians lead by Aufidias (Gerard Butler). He is revered by his senate and army but feared and hated by most of his people for his loathing of their filthy and fickle ways. Yet onward he goes into battle for his country and his personal enmity with the rebel leader Aufidias, eventually leading to a hand-to-hand combat scene.

Okay so now if you’re someone who loves Shakespeare and grew up on it, then you’ll probably like this film. If you’re not, then you’re hardly going to understand a lot of its heavy, winding old English. There are whole blocks of dialogue that just went above my head (and I don’t hate Shakespeare’s work) but then there are gems of dialogue too that make you go ‘wow’, who could have written that in today’s day and age.

I just felt that initially the actors weren’t comfortable but then they grew into their parts. Brian Cox as Coriolanus’s trusted friend Menenius is particularly good with his diction and dialogue as is veteran Vanessa Redgrave as the General’s mother Volumnia. And notwithstanding his Aussie accent, Gerard Butler is actually quite good.

The fickle rabble of Rome has been captured nicely but the backdrop of ‘Rome’ is totally absent. It could be any run down city in Europe or even America that they shot in. And at times you get the sense that Fiennes rejoices and even indulges himself in a bit of ‘theatre’ to prove himself as an artist.

The betrayal of his people and his subsequent defection to the rebel side and consequent friendship (the scene where they meet and Aufidias expresses his deep respect and love for Caius Martius has heavy gay undertones) and eventual betrayal once again makes for an interesting story. But can you really keep up at times with the thick Shakespearean dialogue. This isn’t an easy watch and in my opinion could have done with a bit more authenticity. As it is, it’s a good attempt but not a great movie.

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