I believe that one of the reasons Shakespeare is so popular is that his stories are so recognisable. At the crux of his stories are the same human emotions that have been driving our choices for thousands of years. The story of Romeo and Juliet is just as valid as the setting in West side story as it would be as a Greek tragedy set in Athens. King Lear can be set in 17th century Japan, or thirties Chicago. And this is a Coriolanus that has been taken from the early days of Rome and been set in modern Europe.
Anyway a Synopsis:
The economy is suffering and in Rome the people are hungry, and getting angry. They march against the government with a mind to break open the granaries of the rich. The man the government sends to keep them in check is the General Caius Martius. He has fought in several wars to defend Romes borders and he will not have his city ripped apart by some rabble.
Just as Casius quells the civil disruption the Volscians led by their general Aufidius break their treaty with Rome and go to war over a disputed border. The Consul of Rome calls for Caius Martius to take up arms again. Tullus Aufidius and Caius Martius fight a desperate battle in the city of Corioles. The two have fought many times and are determined to kill each other. After a fierce fight Caius wins the city of Corioles and returns victorious again in time for the election of the consul. But Caius is very proud and very rigid in his pride and has many enemies. Two Tribunes that represent the people plot his down fall. They hate his pride and arrogance, and do not wish him to be elected to rule over Rome. To be elected consul Caius must win over the senate and the common vote as well. All goes well until the Tribunes whip up another riot in opposition of Caius. Caius becomes so enraged he denounces the electoral system and is banished by the senators from Rome forever. Caius swears his revenge on Rome and leaves forever.
Ensue hyjinx in iambic pentameter.
OK yes this film is in iambic pentameter, but it also has some pretty good action sequences as well. the fight scene between Caius ( Ralph Fiennes) and Aufidius (Gerard Butler) is superb. it apparently took two days to film.
I found the action sequences to be fast paced, exciting and also interesting. The film was shot in Serbia and Montenegro with Rome being set in Modern day Belgrade. The Romans are equipped NATO style, with the Volscians is more of a revolutionary eastern bloc style. Dragan Micanovic is a Serbian actor that plays Caius's friend and second in command in the film. He said that it was made him think about his own countries history as they played out the battle scenes with real soldiers from the Serbian Army. It made me think that in these declining times maybe we are not so far from seeing more war than we think. It films like these that seem to reflect an under current of dissatisfaction with the contemporary powers that be.
The acting was spectacular, Ralph Feinnes and Gerald Butler gave outstanding performances. Vanessa Redgrave was exceptionally powerful in her role as Caius's mother, despite being 75. I am a big fan of Brian Cox ever since I saw him in Sharpe, and he doesn't disappoint here as Caius's friend and senator.And last but not least James Nesbitt gives a grand performance as the sleazy tribune Sicinius determined to bring Caius down.
The cinematographer for Coriolanus was Barry Ackroyd who also worked on Hurt Locker and The Green Zone. The camera work added to the realism of the film. The over all production was well thought out and executed and I enjoyed it from start to finish.
I enjoy Shakespeare, and I enjoy new interpretations of the bards works. This version of Coriolanus is entertaining, powerful and timely. I am glad I saw it and I am also disappointed it had such a short run.
I think it deserves 7 noble monkeys, and all fans of Shakespeare should check it out.