DVD Review – Coriolanus
Ralph Fienne’s retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus is now out on Blu-ray and DVD; here are Tom’s thoughts on its release.
Ralph Fiennes is a prolific actor who has worked with countless talented directors over the past two decades and news of his decision to relocate behind the camera was greeted warmly by critics eager to see if his success could be replicated in the director’s chair. Choosing to also portray the main character, Caius Martius Coriolanus, was a bold move for Fiennes to consider in his directing debut but his career on screen and stage has delivered some engaging performances and I had no doubt that Coriolanus would be a continuation of his outstanding career.
Caius Martius Coriolanus is a Roman soldier and hero who returns victorious from a war only to be turned upon by the people of Rome, inciting mass riots and suffering at the hands of manipulative politicians. Fiennes film depicts him as a tortured individual, who is at war not just with Rome but his own family, (particularly his mother Volumnia who is portrayed brilliantly by Vanessa Redgrave) banished from the State and forced to unite with his enemy. As I am completely unfamiliar with the play it was encouraging to see that Fienne’s adaptation is accessible enough to be unlikely to hinder anyone’s enjoyment, as I soon found myself completely engrossed in the film.
Not since Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet have I heard such archaic phrases (I’ll hold my hands up – I’m not well versed in Shakespeare) and this will undoubtedly put off a number of audience members although it adds a sense of decorum to the proceedings which works well as a stark contrast to the brutality of certain scenes. Shakespeare’s rousing and powerful prose is put to excellent use by Butler and Fiennes – with their stirring speeches and aggressive monologues harking back to a time where every word served a purpose - without feeling out of place in a modern setting.
Choosing to film the events of a Shakespeare tragedy in modern day settings adds relevance for today’s audience and the use of newsreels to progress the story is an inspired way of adding narration to key plot points. I was enthralled to see news reporter Jon Snow portray a version of himself in some of these clips and Fienne’s other inspired casting choices include veteran thespians Brian Cox and James Nesbitt who are perfectly suited to the Shakesperean tongue.
Coriolanus is a gripping tragedy that translates well to the screen but lacks the impact required to become a modern classic. As can be the case with Shakespeare, the long monologues, whilst necessary for the telling of the story and often captivating, can have a tendency to become turgid and repetitive despite the best efforts of the cast. The action is fast and frenetic and for a directorial debut this is a fine accomplishment - I will definitely be first in line to take a look at Fienne’s next foray behind the camera.
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha
Are you a fan of Shakespeare adapations or does reading about the bard bring back painful memories of English lesson’s in high school? Please comment below…