Shakespeare tale is worthwhile directorial debut for Fiennes
Long ranked as one of the least accessible entries in the Shakespearean canon, Coriolanus arrives on the big screen for the first time in this ferocious 21st-century interpretation, marking Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut.
While the play’s saga of political leadership at odds with the populace is set in Roman times, the film unfolds in a modern city still called Rome, but shot in Belgrade and drawing on the visual iconography of recent Balkan conflicts – all grey combat fatigues, suffering civilians and rolling satellite news. As always, when the Bard is transposed in such a way, the game is partly about how far the makers can push the modernity, yet the smartphone-shot assassinations and audience-baiting TV debates stay on the witty side of incongruous.
The key, though, is that the themes still feel relevant: Fiennes’s eponymous general is just the man to save the city from the Volscian assault force. Fiennes the performer attacks it with such vivid urgency we reluctantly forgo a certain emotional resonance. As a director, he knows when to keep it simple and let the actors rip. A committed and worthwhile celluloid version of a play so few of us really know.