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Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut is an adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy about the tribulations of a banished hero. Transposing the action from ancient Rome to present-day Eastern Europe, the film tells the story of General Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes) who returns home from war to find himself at odds with his countrymen who see him as a tyrant looking for fame and glory. When his ambitious mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), tries to orchestrate formal recognition for her son, both the authorities and the people turn against Coriolanus and exile him. Allying himself with his former enemy, Aufidius (Gerald Butler), an embittered Coriolanus sets out for revenge against those who have wronged him.
The common people of Rome are hungry – never has the social inequality between themselves and the wealthy ruling classes been so apparent. Riots are widespread and the people’s fury rapidly becomes focussed on the Republic’s most courageous general, Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes), who has publicly expressed his scorn for their suffering. But, Rome is also at war with the Volsces, a neighbouring state whose guerrilla-style army is led by Martius’s sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Following the latest, brazen Volscian taunt, Martius and his comrade-at-arms Titus Lartius (Dragan Micanovic) are called to a council of war by their commanding officer, General Cominius (John Kani). Rome must retaliate. Martius’s outstanding courage and leadership on the field of battle secures the Volscian city of Corioles for Rome. It is a crushing defeat for the Volscians and, in honour of his victory, Martius is awarded the title ‘Coriolanus’, meaning conqueror of Corioles. The anger of the Roman people has now subsided and Coriolanus has become a hero. With his recent triumph, Coriolanus’s politically ambitious mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) joyfully anticipates her son being elected to the powerful Senate position of Consul. Influential Roman Senator, and Coriolanus’s political mentor, Menenius (Brian Cox) encourages him. Always in the background, Coriolanus’s gentle and loving wife, Virgilia (Jessica Chastain), worries for her husband’s continued safety.
To become Consul, Coriolanus knows he must first secure the people’s support and at first he is loath to engage in the necessary glad-handing. He sees it as hypocritical and an affront to his personal honour code. Under pressure, he finally relents but, not a natural politician, he handles his canvassing without the required good grace and arouses ill feeling in his audience. His past public declarations have already established him as a threat to the people in the minds of their representatives, the Tribunes. And now the conspiratorial Tribunes, Brutus (Paul Jesson) and Sicinius (James Nesbitt) take full advantage of Coriolanus’s rapid fall from public favour to persuade voters to refuse him the office he seeks. The Tribunes campaign is further supported by an underground group of left-wing rebels, led by Cassius (Ashraf Barhom) and Tamora (Lubna Azabal), who also speak out against Coriolanus’s election. Their combined arguments work and he is defeated.
Coriolanus is enraged and his verbal retaliation leads to further public rioting. Disgraced, the Senate banishes him from Rome. Now stateless and seeking revenge for Rome’s ingratitude and treachery, Coriolanus journeys to the city of Antium, the Volscian capital and home to his enemy, Tullus Aufidius. With nothing to lose, he seeks out his old adversary and boldly offers him a choice. Aufidius can either take Coriolanus’s life or accept his help in defeating Rome. Confronted by his greatest enemy, Aufidius must decide whether to finally destroy his rival or join forces with him in battle….
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Top Customer Reviews
Well-paced and not excessively violent (compared to what it could have been) the acting is excellent, the words spoken with such expression and clarity that the sense comes through very strongly, even to someone like me unfamiliar with the text. It does not bother me that some passages and plot details may have been omitted in the interests of making the plot easier to digest. Likewise, a dialogue which sounds at time surprisingly modern compensates for the lack of any memorable "To be or not to be"-style soliloquies which may not come across well in a film.
The modern setting is not irritating and gratuitous as is too often the case, but also enabled me to see the film's relevance to our divided and violent world. Rome is represented as a typical concrete western city, ruled by the cynical "haves" ("patricians") while the mass of "have-nots" are beginning to riot over lack of bread, although they are easily swayed by cunning politicians.
Rome is under threat from a Balkan-type community called the Volscians, against whom the professional soldier Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) gains a celebrated victory over the city of Corioles, thus being rewarded with the surname "Coriolanus". This leads naturally to his appointment as a consul, but "honest to a fault", he refuses to conceal his contempt for the people. His political enemies play on this to get him banished, which of course turns him from a loyal supporter of Rome to a man bent on revenge.
On a personal level, this is an interesting psychological study of pride, fanaticism and jealousy.Read more ›
For me, it was a must for my collection.
Coriolanus lives - and Ralph Fiennes is amazing!
There is a simple solution however- turn the hard of hearing sub titles on. When I watched it again, the film suddenly came alive. I could rapidly assimilate the hidden meanings and then follow the narrative. I would have dreaded seeing this in the cinema without the "cheat."
The film travels to the Balkans, carrying the seeds and kernel of the tragedies. A psychological portrayal of a warrior, betrayed by politicians who appear cleverer, PR men, an ascending country in crisis, a growing gulf between rich and poor, rioting, civil war...a vision of a world that has passed or one yet to come.
All revolving around the power of women, whilst not wielding the sword, have a greater will to power, using their sons to revenge their life humiliation. Sons become pawns within their struggle to vent their internal rage, harnessing to the feelings about a man who feels he has been wronged, seeking emotional compensation for his "hurt," the snub of power delivered by the plebs.
The narrative is wrapped in the revenge motif, all entrapped within in a sociopathic state. When this becomes clear, the violence takes on a shinier meaning and Shakespeare ascends any video game drama. Even cut down into bite size chunks, like this, it careers over anything emanating from over the pond where dreams are manufactured to satiate any cudgel to a connection to reality.Read more ›
Coriolanus is a tale of pride and ambition. Ralph plays the Roman general Caius Martius, named Coriolanus by a grateful senate for his defeat of the Volscians and capture of the city of Corioles. Soon he is standing for the position of Consul, which would bring much honour, but the proud and noble man is dismissive of the general populace, who turn against him and in shame he is driven from Rome. He travels to the heartland of his Volscian enemies and is soon marching at the head of their army against Rome itself.
Ralph Fiennes both directs and stars in this excellent adaptation. I have not seen the play previously, so cannot comment on the faithfulness of the text. But the setting is a triumph. Updated to a modern Italy at war with a Balkan state, this has a feel of immediacy and relevance. The modern look sits well with the sixteenth century dialogue, which is easy to follow and well enunciated. The use of framing devices, such as TV interviews, is a stroke of genius and I have to say that the sight of Jon Snow spouting Shakespearian dialogue with aplomb was an unexpected and welcome surprise. The setting and the devices used are totally fitting to the play and allow us to see the central message - the consequence of pride - clearly. It also makes the play accessible to people who are more used to big thrill cinema and war films, and not so fussed by sixteenth century tragedies.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's an interesting setting of Coriolanus, and worth seeing once, but I don't think it's perfect. The modern vaguely-Balkan locations work well. Read morePublished 1 month ago by bobrayner
Ok but didn't reflect Shakespeare's play. Guess I'll have to read it againPublished 6 months ago by Kindle Customer