Monday, January 30, 2012

Coriolanus (dir. Ralph Fiennes, 2011)

I mentioned this adaptation of Shakespeare's play way back last summer, after I went to a talk on it given by Ralph Fiennes at the Hay Literary Festival, and it's finally out. The film is brilliant - fantastic acting all round, pretty much as you'd expect from Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave (and I think Gerard Butler has been underrated for too long) and Fiennes' direction is great too - visually interesting without distracting from the story. (The choice of a dragon tattoo as a motif was perhaps unfortunate given the timing of the film's release, but since it was made yonks ago, that's not his fault).

Spoilers follow - if you don't know the story and want to see the film, stay away until you've seen it!

OldHousemate(thecamelridingone) and I saw the play at Stratford years ago, following an impulse to get some use out of their under-25 offers before we outgrew them. (In fact, we saw one of the very last performances in the old theatre at Stratford before it was closed for renovation. The set was a simple but big and effective design involving columns going right from near the front of the stage to the back, and I was quite sad at the time knowing that the theatre was being redesigned in a way that would make sets like that impossible. I haven't been there since the new theatre opened, so I don't know how they're creating sets in the thrust-stage design).

The actor playing Coriolanus, William Houston, was excellent, and in a totally different way to Fiennes. From what I remember, the RSC actor went for a really manic energy, a man who could barely sit still with a quick temper. In the scene where Coriolanus meets the people, I seem to remember him acting basically as a huge snob, making fun of them (there were lots of lines about 'mocking' in the film, but I found it hard to see the mocking in the lines - I'm not sure whether the script had been over-edited, or I just drifted off for a moment and missed it). Fiennes' Coriolanus, though he can shout up a storm when he needs to, is much quieter and Fiennes-like at other times. He's intense in a slightly more slow-burning fashion (except in the middle of a fight, when he breaks out and screams the place down) and his problem with appeasing the people seems centred more in him being somewhat uncomfortable in his skin and too brash and honest to play games with them - whereas from what I remember from the other performance, it was more about him simply feeling utterly superior to the people and not caring what they thought. Either way works perfectly well, and both performances were equally effective.

More at Pop Classics: Coriolanus (dir. Ralph Fiennes, 2011)