11 May 2014


Coriolanus 2011
  • Director: Ralph Fiennes
  • Based on play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Gerald Butler, Brian Cox, John Kani, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbitt
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter,  The Reader, In Bruges, The Constant Gardener, Maid in Manhattan, Sunshine, The English Patient,  Spider, Strange Days, The Quiz Show, Schindler’s List, Wuthering Heights
    • Vanessa Redgrave – Atonement, Girl Interrupted, The Cradle Will Rock, Lulu on the Bridge, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Howards End, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Playing for Time, Prick Up Your Ears, Oh What a Lovely War, Isadora, Camelot
    • Gerald Butler – Dear Frankie, Mrs. Brown
    • Brian Cox – Zodiac, Troy, Adaption, The Bourne Identity, Longitude, Rushmore, The Long Kiss Good Night, Braveheart, Rob Roy, King Lear
    • John Kani –  A Dry White Season,
    • Jessica Chastain – The Help, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter
    • James Nesbitt – Millions, Go Now
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen:  May 4, 2014
You may not know the story, it’s not one of Shakespeare’s most often performed.  Therefore a recap: the illustrious military victor, Coriolanus, wants to be elected consul of Rome but needs the votes of the citizens whom he openly despises. He has actively prevented grain from being distributed to them and they are starving. The conflict escalates. He is banished. He joins forces with his old military enemy Aufidius. They wage war against Rome; more killing and destruction follow. Volumnia, Coriolanus’s mother, convinces him to cease his hostilities. His ally-enemy Aufidius kills him. The end.
The film. Today. Rome. Or any number of today’s battlefields. Hunger riots. Confrontations between civilians and soldiers. Bombings. Tanks rolling down city streets. Ruins. Rubble. Dead and wounded, soldiers and civilians. We see it all, daily on the TV news.
The lines spoken are Shakespeare’s.  The close ups are modern film technology. It all shows the uncertainty, the inflammable changeability, the mass hysteria of crowds and soldiers alike.
Vanessa Redgrave does one of her devastatingly strongest roles as the ultrapatriotic mother Volumnia. Ralph Fiennes is outstanding in his rages and defeat. The frailty and cruelty, the fumbling, the tragedy of humanity is seen in each of the films individuals – even the nameless ones in the crowds.
It’s a disturbing play. It’s a disturbing film. It raises many uneasy questions but answers none about democracy, freedom, abuse of power, contempt for and hatred and oppression of the poor and powerless, heroism and cowardice, treachery and valour, war and macho vengeful militarism.
It’s more relevant today in our world of the 21st century than in Shakespeare’s world of the 17th.
4 ½ * of 5

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