"“An intense and stimulating political drama; but I just felt it needed more enthusiasm and excitement…”"
As a host of films from all across the world come to London for the 55th annual film festival, it seems apt that there be a film adaptation of a play by William Shakespeare, the most important playwright of all time – hailing from just a mere few hours from the capital.
Ralph Fiennes adaptation and directorial debut, is undeniably well-acted and well-made, but ultimately rather uninteresting, which I would put down to a poor choice of play. Nothing against the script, Coriolanus, written in the latter stages of Shakespeare career, is undoubtedly one of his finest tragedies – but not one I would particularly yearn to see adapted onto the big screen.
Based on the life of the legendary Roman leader of the same name, Coriolanus tells the story of Caius Martius Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), a war hero for his hometown of Rome, Italy. However, he despises his own people, and being a man of much self-esteem and pride, his extreme views lead to him being banished from Rome, leaving behind his mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), wife Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) and young son.
As he flees the city, he befriends allies with his sworn adversary Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), as he plots his revenge on the people of his former home.
Boasting a strong cast and some sensational performances, it’s hard to find many flaws with the feature (it’s quite well written too…). However, I just don’t feel the story is remarkable enough for the big screen, and as a result it becomes quite dull in parts.
It’s been modernised to the present day, which in some respects work very well – the parodied news and debates, featuring infamous news reporter Jon Snow, work well and bring a touch of realism and help towards the political edge the film is attempting to acquire. However, I felt in a few cases the modernisation felt somewhat contrived, such as the video conversations on laptops between Coriolanus and his troops, for example.
I’m still caught in two minds as to whether or not I believe the modernisation was a good thing. I think the news stories acted well as a narrative, explaining what is a quite perplexing tale, but it didn’t have the flow of the poetic dialogue that Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet had for example, and as a result just felt quite old-fashioned amidst contemporary surroundings.
But where the feature stood strong was in its performances. There are few better British screen actors than both Fiennes and Redgrave, and both were astounding. Fiennes has a wonderful fervour, and managed to play the obsessive and zealous leader well – whilst also perfecting the unspoken, contemplative side to the tyrant.
Redgrave, as well as Brian Cox – playing Menenius – shone as the two more experienced members of the cast, with an enticing an emotional monologue by Redgrave towards the latter end of the feature. To further Fiennes reputation as a new director, he even had Butler putting in a strong shift.
It is therefore quite difficult to criticise the production too much, it’s an intense and stimulating political drama; but I just felt it needed more enthusiasm and excitement.
But, at the same festival that boasts the showing of upcoming release Anonymous – which questions and defies the legitimacy to Shakespeare’s work, having seen yet another one of his plays up on the big screen - I’m with the Bard on this one.