Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus

It seems a faux pas at times, but I am always interested in new (and interesting) interpretations of Shakespeare's works.
Having been a massive fan of Julie Taymor's Titus, I quickly assumed her own version of The Tempest would be that next great adaptation. But alas, near a year has gone by and the more I think on that film the more I despise every inch of it. True, it costars a number of excellent actors (Alan Cumming, David Straitharn, Chris Cooper), but none of these people had very much to do. And somehow Julie Taymor only managed to focus on the most mundane of things. It's a strange play, no doubt... but somehow I had anticipated a far more interesting film from such a creative piece.

Near a full year later, enter Coriolanus. Not just Coriolanus... but Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus.
And somehow that makes sense. Fiennes is one of those excellent actors who always seems to get snubbed come around Oscar season. See The Constant Gardener. And I believe it will happen again. However, Ralph has an Ace in the Hole this time. This time he is the director.
Ralph Fiennes surprised me. He made me happy to say I believed in his movie, that I was actively excited to see it going in with the mindset that it would indeed be great. Frequently this makes it harder for a movie to live up to the "hype", but Coriolanus did. It lived up to the hype and made me crave another Ralph Fiennes film. If he could perform the way he performed whilst being in charge of the crew and the cast around him, I have so much more than faith in his future abilities as a film maker.

On another note, Brian Cox blew this thing out of the water.
He had such an excellent role and really made use of the words that Shakespeare gave him. If he does not get any kind of critical acclaim for this performance, then shame on the institution of film criticism.

But what is Coriolanus? I admit, entering the theatre I had only a limited knowledge of this lesser known work by the bard. I'll tell you now, it's not a member of the Apocrypha. This goes so far as to say, it is considered just another example of Shakespeare's masterdom over language and storytelling. I can now say I prefer this work to the likes of Julius Caesar, Macbeth, or Othello (Iago exempt). And that's a pretty buff group of plays right there. But somehow Caius Martius Coriolanus is such an interesting character to me. He seems so real, so steadfast and honorable (in his own way), and so stubborn. He's the kind of character that makes you wonder if good men can be bad and bad men can in fact be good.  To me he is a symbol of man attempting to preside over the faculties of their own will. Trying too hard to be in control can lead to terrible struggle. In this case, Coriolanus' struggles take him to the opposite ends of his being. How does a man become his own enemy? And how do a people watch that man and not call him evil?

Coriolanus. It's worth your time in a darkened theatre.

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