Every summer, I dutifully drag myself to the beautiful Globe Theatre in London, England to take North American visitors to see a live Shakespeare play. Shakespeare is a terrific writer, but I am not his biggest fan. Great plots and characters, but the language – lovely as it is – just fails to engage me.
“King Lear” and “Coriolanus” are the only two Shakespeare plays I love. Every time I see a production of one of these, I get something wonderful from it.
This new “Coriolanus” is Shakespeare for those who don’t really like the Bard of Avon. It’s a fantastically engaging war movie, set in modern times and the script combines the best of Shakespeare’s words with John Logan’s excellent changes to the key places where Mr S’s words are difficult, for a modern viewer.
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in the title role. Gerard Butler is fantastic as Aufidius, his military foe. And Vanessa Redgrave packs a powerful punch as Coriolanus’ mother.
From the beginning, you are plunged into war, with real effects that had the squeamish at the Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse squirming and looking away.
You need a strong stomach for violence to get the best from this.
It’s an in incredibly powerful film. The Serbian (and Montenegrin) settings substitute for Rome and the whole thing just fizzes with action and modern themes. Coriolanus’ big problem is he won’t play to the crowd and court celebrity. If the themes interest you, there are hundreds of great books about this play.
But you really don’t need to know anything about the play to thoroughly enjoy and love the movie.
The music enhances the plot, rather than intruding.
It’s Ralph Fiennes first work as a director and it feels like a labour of love. There are times when the whooshing around of the camera, in the crowd and war scenes, gets a bit dizzying, but that adds to the total experience.
Do see it. The packed Gate Cinema all buzzed with excitement afterwards and agreed it is an excellent movie. The two hours rush by and it will stay in your mind in a very good way.