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1/26 - DIY Coriolanus Review with Video

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Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes' film feels urgent, immediate and, as demonstrated in the successful battle sequences, utterly visceral.

Posted 26th January 2012, 4:11pm in Film, by Siobhan Denton

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Despite T.S. Eliot's claim of Coriolanus' superiority to Hamlet, the casual viewer is unlikely to be familiar with the plight of Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus, the titular character from one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays.

Having proven himself crucial in Rome's fight against the subversive Volscian army, led by Aufidius (Gerard Butler), Coriolanus, upon his return from battle, is encouraged by his overbearing mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgave) to run for Consul. This decision, whilst finding favour with the majority of the Senate, is met with disdain by the people of Rome, who are further angered by Coriolanus' open disregard of their supposed rabble-like tendencies.

Ralph Fiennes, undertaking both directorial and titular role responsibilities, excels in both regards. His direction is tightly-paced and expertly shot, imbuing the film and the play itself with a timeless, transcendent quality. Wisely updating both the period and setting for a contemporary audience, Fiennes' film takes place in war-torn anonymous Eastern Europe; it is, as the film informs, 'some place like Rome'.

No other source material is subject to the same degree of reverence afforded to the works of Shakespeare; as such, any film which chooses to manipulate either the source material, or simply change the setting, is likely to incur the wrath of purists. Fiennes' decision to update the setting effectively recontextualises the play, ensuring accessibility whilst maintaining integrity to the source material.

The casting decisions are quite perfect, attracting excellent actors without allowing them the opportunity for grandiose pontificating, as is often the case when performing Shakespeare. Redgrave excels as the cloying, often typically Freudian Volumnia. The viewer understands the power Volumnia holds over her son, and thus understands the direction the narrative takes. The luminous Jessica Chastain makes the best of the limited screen time afforded her in the relatively sparse role of Coriolanus' wife, carefully balancing wifely concern with naive devotion.

It is Butler, whose casting may have surprised those familiar with his back-catalogue, who truly proves himself. Butler is magnetic, both charismatic and commanding, proving his ability when provided with the right material. Fiennes' of course, reprising a role he originated onstage, is excellent, permeating his Coriolanus with effective complexity and arrogance whilst maintaining the viewer's interest and empathy.

Fiennes' film feels urgent, immediate and, as demonstrated in the successful battle sequences, utterly visceral. Coriolanus, perhaps most importantly, feels fresh and relevant: a truly exciting film, showcasing a newly emerging directorial talent.

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