March 11, 2012 1 Comment

“Shakespeare meets the Hurt Locker ” has been used by a number of critics to describe Ralph Fienne’s film version of “Coriolanus.”   The film was shot in Serbia, in modern military dress and is packed with IED explosions and AK-47s…but the words are all Shakespeare.  The play itself may not be as accessible as others adapted for the big screen (think Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, The Tempest, Titus and MacBeth) but the feel of this one lingers.  Fiennes both directs and stars in his film as Caius Martius Coriolanus, a brutally successful warrior with a stubborn disdain for the common citizens he apparently lives to protect.  He is not a likable hero and Fiennes coldly scowls his way through expectations that he should appreciate the masses.  The film is timely and unsettling.  There is famine in the land and the people are protesting.  There are no witches, no star-crossed lovers or deliciously evil villains and we are left trying to sort out the motives and actions  of leaders flawed by greed  or stubbornness before all is destroyed.   Coriolanus does not fear death and in fact, he wears his numerous battles scars like jewels.  Coriolanus does not fear his enemies and fearlessly confronts his foe Tullus Auidius (Gerard Butler) whenever necessary.  So what does motivate such a man?  Shakespeare knew the answer……”if it’s not one thing, it’s your MOTHER”!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yea, the great warrior has been shaped and continues to heed his steely-eyed mother Volumnia (a superb Vanessa Redgrave)….now that’s insight….

I left the theatre initially feeling unsatisfied by the film.  However, I think that my queasy feeling was not a dissatisfaction with the film itself, but of the unsettling motives of our leaders, without any feel good bows or alternatives promised.   This is a good film and Fiennes has done us a favor by creating an opportunity to experience one of Shakespeare’s “lesser plays”……but feel free to check out Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest” if you need a little mirth!   Both are “Must See Movies”…..way to go Bard!    …Jolyn Wagner


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One Comment to “Coriolanus”
  1. Elaine Minkin says:

    I left the movie before it ended. I think you can modernize Shakespeare up to to the 1950″ or 70″s. After that time, video screens, cell phones etc. are intrusions into the wisdom of Shakespeare.
    The leaders are flawed, and also courageous. THe times are complicated.
    In our times, we are past the ” mother’ as the prime motivator/destroyer of her young, I would hope.
    It is not only Coriolanus against the masses. It is also Coriolanus against his sworn enemy. There are always intermediaries between ” the people” and the leaders . Elaine Minkin

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