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Shakespeare Meets CNN,
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This review is from: Coriolanus [DVD]  (DVD)
People who complain about this play being set in modern times are missing a vital fact about Shakespeare's work: He was writing to engage and entertain, not to be historically accurate. He sets Julius Cesar in Roman times, yet his soldiers yell "fire" in battle, the actors of the day often wore Elisabethan battledress, not togas, and they speak of the "clock striking"...long before Rome had striking clocks. If William were alive today, his actors would wear modern dress. There's nothing sacred about chainmail and doublets.
The film is a pared-down streamlined version of the play, which as Fiennes himself says in his commentary on the DVD, was done to get to the story and circumvent somewhat what he called "the density of the language." I found some of the camera work jittery and annoying, particularly when the jumpy scenes occur outside the context of media reporting. However, within the context of the production, it worked. I found it gripping, in that it made the brutality of war and rebellion a reality for the viewer. I have to say, I'm not used to getting adrenaline surges when watching Shakespeare, but it's a pleasant experience and the time flies by.
I studied Coriolanus at university and it was never one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. I never really got into the man's mind. However in this production it's plain that Coriolanus' arrogance and self-righteousness are his downfall; as someone once said: God deliver us from men who "know" they're right! After watching Fiennes' film you realise that Commander Coriolanus was never meant to engage our sympathy, as even MacBeth does in his downward spiral. There's a definite resonance with Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" in several scenes.
Vanessa Redgrave gives a sterling performance as Volumnia, the she-wolf who whelped the dragon. You can definitely see where Sonny Boy got his pride. Their face-off is a wonderful piece of staging.