Coriolanus ★★

Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays and with good reason. It's one of his worst. This isn't because of the language, it is as always beautiful, perhaps lacking in flashes of iconic genius, but still beautiful. It's because it is riddled with one dimensional characters that have no arc whatsoever. Most problematic is Coriolanus. He is probably one of the worst protagonists the Bard has ever conceived. He is an awful person and not one I am willing to invest in. A lot of awful things happen to him which makes him a rather tragic and somewhat pathetic figure, but this does not automatically make it a great tragedy. You need a connection for that, one that is sorely missing here.

You know what would impress me? If someone would have the guts to place a Shakespeare play in the time it was set in. Shakespeare is always about the language and the themes it tries to convey with it. When transported to a modern setting and keeping the language intact, there will atomatically be a sense of wrongness. There is, of course, the rare occasion where it does work, but more often than not, situations and conversations feel fractured, having content and interpretation disconnected.

With Fiennes' film it is no different and he has the added disadvantage of having to work with very weak source material. The transportation to modern Rome just doesn't work. Everytime I saw a news broadcast or a political debate in a talkshow like environment in Shakespeare's English, I cringed. It did not add anything to the story or the interpretation of it.

Furthermore, the tone of the film is oppressively bleak. While this isn't the happiest of plays, the pacing and delivery of some of the soliloquys are often very heavyhanded, at points bordering on pantomime overacting. And that is probably the source of the problem. Fiennes hasn't transported his film from one medium to the other and as such it is somewhere stuck in between. What we get is a film in which actors deliver a performance as of they're on stage. That never works.

Fiennes delivers a fine perfornance but at points completely unhinges and goes over the top. There are a few atrocious performances, but all in all the acting is of a decent standard. There are two actors who really seemed to know what they were doing though and that were Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave. Especially the latter's reading of her character was spot on. She plays the manipulative Volumnia, Coriolanus' mother. It's a shame that Fiennes chose to focus on the rivalry between Coriolanus and Butler's character Aufidius, especially because the real focus lies with his relationship with his mother. She is the only one that can manipulate him, even though she does this mainly for personal gain. This aspect was for the better part lost in the film.

While I can appreciate some performances and some scenes as a whole it is a disappointing failure that was doomed from the start anyway.

DirkH liked these reviews