Coriolanus (M) (122min)
Directed by Ralph Fiennes. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave.
Presenting Shakespeare in a contemporary setting isn't a new idea. Orson Welles was dressing his Julius Caesar cast in overtly fascist garb as far back as 1937. While Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet, and Richard Loncraine's 1995 Richard the Third with Sir Ian McKellan playing the king as a sociopathic jazz age louche, still rate as my two of the most successful adaptations in every sense ever.
But Ralph Fienne's decision to bring Coriolanus into the 21st century was a particularly good one. The story is of a general, overthrown and rejected by his own people when he attempts to gain political office, then crossing the lines to offer his services, or his life, to his avowed enemies. While still ostensibly set in and around Rome (the place names have not been changed) Fiennes has, lifted the story sand set it down amidst the civil wars that have simmered and occasionally exploded across greater Europe the last few decades. Complete with breathless TV coverage, skyping, roadside IEDs, and food riots.
It works well, and at times brilliantly. Fiennes and his team make the most of their chances, presenting battle scenes and mobs in a way that artfully conceals the limited budget and resources. While the text, though surely edited down to the bare minimum to convey the action, actually sings against the gunfire and bayonet duels that stud the film. The cast are universally strong, with Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, and James Nesbitt- reinventing a Roman tribune as an oleaginous Euro-crat particularly effective. This is Shakespeare done right; relevant, exciting, but without any unnecessary compromise. Go and have a look.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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