Coriolanus – a double triumph for Ralph Fiennes

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Monday 23rd January 2012

Third time lucky. That was how I felt at the weekend when I took my husband to the cinema. Two weeks ago I’d booked tickets for The Iron Lady. His verdict? Two out of ten, largely because he found the portrayal of Lady Thatcher’s dementia too upsetting to watch. The following week I tried War Horse, figuring he couldn’t possibly object to Steven Spielberg’s latest movie. Wrong. He rolled his eyes and said it was like watching “Lassie the Super Horse.”

But refusing to be beaten, I had a third attempt this weekend and booked to see Coriolanus. And bingo, he loved it.

This powerful film represents a double triumph for Ralph Fiennes, who not only stars as Coriolanus but directs for the first time too. Shot in Belgrade and the Serbian countryside, the action is set in the present day but uses Shakespeare’s text to electrifying effect.  This could be a tricky feat to pull off but it brings the play alive for a 21st century cinema audience.

In the past theatre-goers have often found Coriolanus, a brilliant but flawed general who falls foul of his people and eventually flees into exile, an unsympathetic character. But Fiennes’s extraordinary portrayal makes sense of this intensely proud man who’s so affronted by the way the mob turns against him that he joins the opposition and leads them into battle against his former side. Vanessa Redgrave, by the way,  gives a stunning performance as his ultra-controlling, ambitious mother.

The promotional posters for the film, showing Fiennes’s face dripping in blood, are a clear sign that this movie isn’t for the squeamish. The battle scenes are definitely the most realistic I’ve seen in a long time. Actually, there was a bit too much blood for my liking but then again, it must have been the job of a lifetime for the make up artists.

2 comments so far

  • Interesting review – particularly as my eldest daughter went to see Coriolanus and told me to steer clear of it! I’m always more intrigued by something that opinion is divided on, so Coriolanus has just moved up my ‘go and see’ list.

  • Thanks so much for commenting, Maryom. Did your daughter see a stage production of Coriolanus? I saw it at the theatre years ago and wasn’t convinced but the film is amazing, although as I said in my review, a bit too gory for me.

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