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Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Produced in 2011
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Gerard Butler and a steely-eyed Vanessa Redgrave join Fiennes in his version of Shakespeare's play, updated to modern-day Belgrade. It's a chillingly relevant adaptation, says Milo Wakelin.
Filmed on location in Belgrade, Ralph Fiennes’s adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays retains the original text, but clarifies the story and updates the setting to a modern-day civil war. The tale of a general who triumphs on the battlefield only to find himself ill-equipped in the political arena, Coriolanus feels chillingly relevant in an era where swiftly-won wars have given way to division and unrest.
Fiennes’ directorial debut captures the horror of urban warfare using hand-held camerawork intercut with news footage (featuring a terrific cameo from newsreader Jon Snow). This grey hell of dust and rubble proves to be the only environment in which Coriolanus feels totally at home. Shaven-headed, tattooed and clad in body armour, Fiennes cuts an unexpectedly powerful physical presence in the film’s numerous action sequences.
Outside the fury of battle, the Roman general comes across as subdued and awkward; uncomfortable in the spotlight, distant even from his wife, Virgilia (an ethereally beautiful if underused Jessica Chastain), and totally in thrall to his mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave). It’s a subtle, self-contained take on one of Shakespeare’s most complex warriors.
His opponent, Gerard Butler’s Tullus Aufidius, is everything Coriolanus is not: confident in his leadership on and off the battlefield, and a far more obviously heroic presence. Butler has played beefcakes before (and in fact, he’s also played Shakespeare before, in the ensemble of Steven Berkoff’s 1996 Coriolanus revival), and his naturalistic performance is an effective counterbalance to Fiennes’ quiet intensity.
Despite all this testosterone, it’s Redgrave who dominates every scene. Her steely-eyed performance as Volumnia is astonishing, and the only conceivable reason she wasn’t nominated Best Supporting Actress at the 2012 Oscars is because the Academy was scared of her (and rightly so).
More than the mud, blood and explosions, her unflinching fanaticism captures the horror that lies at the heart of of civil war: a mother who would proudly send her son to die.
Milo Wakelin on 30th April 2012
Author of 103 reviews
For his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes adapts Shakespeare's tragedy Coriolanus, transposing the action from ancient Rome to present-day Eastern Europe.
The film tells the story of General Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes) who returns home from war to find himself at odds with his countrymen who see him as a tyrant looking for fame and glory. When his ambitious mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), tries to orchestrate formal recognition for her son, both the authorities and the people turn against Coriolanus and exile him. Allying himself with his former enemy, Aufidius (Gerald Butler), an embittered Coriolanus sets out for revenge against those who have wronged him.
Length: 123 mins
Cat No: LGB94822
Format: Blu-ray Colour
by Barry Forshaw on 27th June 2012
A personal note: Ralph Fiennes premiered the stage version of his radical modern dress version of Shakespeare's classic five minutes away from where I live in Islingto... Read on
A personal note: Ralph Fiennes premiered the stage version of his radical modern dress version of Shakespeare's classic five minutes away from where I live in Islington at the Gainsborough Studios (where Alfred Hitchcock made several of his classic English films) before its conversion to flats. Those who were at this performance will remember this as a particularly memorable (and edgy) theatrical occasion, and it's good to be able to report that the actor/director's impressive filmed version replicates the powerful emotional impact of this kinetic take on the text (ruthlessly pruned) while making the Bosnia-style battle settings even more pungent. All of the acting is impeccable, but perhaps the real honours go to Vanessa Redgrave as the imperious Roman general's equally fearsome mother. Hide
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