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Coriolanus - The Ex-Communicator

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November 5th, 2011


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05:33 pm - Coriolanus
I just saw the UK premiere of Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus. It's on general release in January. I can't quite be objective about this film because I think Fiennes sees Coriolanus very much as I do, and that just makes me so happy. You know, when you watch a film adaptation that really fits your own preconceptions about the source material, that is so satisfying. It may be that other people, who see the play differently, might not find this film as enjoyable, hard to say. The production and direction has the modern characteristic of making virtually all the dialogue quite transparent, while also (and not all modern versions do this) surprising you with how lovely the writing is.

Fiennes has taken out some of the awkward discourse which makes 'the people' look stupid, and has strongly emphasised Coriolanus' more or less psychotic violence. It's therefore quite a bit more pro-democracy than the original play. That means the film brings out that point I was discussing in relation to Walter White and Avon - the tension between socialisation and individuation. Coriolanus is a man brought up by his crazy mother to be outside the social group, to function as a warrior, and therefore he can't integrate into peaceful society when he has to, though he can love individuals. As the poster says Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.

What is the place of a warrior, or warrior personality, in the human community? I think this version of Coriolanus asks that question very finely, without forcing you into any answer.

As well as Fiennes there are excellent performances from Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, and a lovely manly turn from Gerard Butler as Aufidius. The camerawork and production design were by people who have worked on the Hurt Locker, Private Ryan and Gladiator, and it has a feel of all of those. It was filmed in Serbia, and it fits very well into that landscape.

While I was watching it I found myself thinking 'this is the first new film I have seen which really speaks to the new political situation, makes the others look out of date'. And then I'm thinking 'what am I talking about, this script isn't new at all'. I know that sounds like I'm bullshitting, to praise Shakespeare ('oh he's so modern'), but you may well feel the same if you see this. Coriolanus is more relevant to the modern global condition than any just-written film I have seen lately. What is this quality of Shakespeare? It is beyond my understanding, literally, it seems supernatural. Everything is in there.

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