And now, FINALLY, onto the last of the London Film Festival films I want to talk about, Coriolanus, directed by, and starring, Ralph Fiennes.
Photo credit: http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/latest-reviews/coriolanus/5023781.article
A clever, contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare's play of political power and intrigue, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes in the title role:
I have been promising this review for a long time and it is long overdue. The reason being that I really wanted to do the film justice. The truth is I will never be able to do this film justice. This film is MIND-BLOWING and it is truly exceptional. It comes highly highly highly recommended by me.
Embarassingly, for someone who claims to know a bit about Shakespeare, I have only ever seen two versions of Coriolanus, and that includes this one. Both versions have had Ralph Fiennes in the title role! The last time I saw Coriolanus was when Ralph Fiennes played the title role in the Almeida's "Shakespeare in Shoreditch" Season, way back in 2000.
Of the two versions (one I am clearly recollecting from over a decade ago) I much much much prefer this film version. Having it set in contemporary Serbia, really brought the play alive for me and I connected with the play in a way that I had not done the last time. Bringing Shakespeare up to date and placing it in a contemporary setting can really make it very powerful indeed IF it is done correctly, and you stay true to the text's intentions. You know that when Ralph Fiennes is in charge (this is his Directorial debut) Shakespeare is in very safe hands. Ralph Fiennes, for me, is by far and away the leading Shakespearian actor of his generation. No contest! This film is a masterclass in how to set Shakespeare in the contemporary world, to fully convey its power and meaning, without compromising at all on artistic integrity.
Ralph's verse speaking is, as always, exceptional. You can easily follow the meaning of the text, and the verse is so beautiful when he speaks it, he really brings out the poetry in it to the full. The verse speaking across the whole of the cast is outstanding. A surpise for me was James Nesbitt. I have never seen him do Shakespeare before and he really was excellent - off the back of this, I would now love to see him as the lead in a Shakespeare play, either on stage, on film, or on the telly.
I loved some of the Directorial choices in this. The close-ups on people's faces at key points really worked. The use of handheld cameras in some scenes to convey the chaos of war, or crowds getting out of control, really worked. To set some scenes in a television studio to convey the power and influence of the media in today's political world really worked. To have Jon Snow in the film, on Newsnight, and narrating the changing political events, really worked. The war and combat scenes, both the epic grand scale war scenes, and the one-on-one combat scenes, really worked. Some of the violence of the war and the fight scenes were effectively and powerfully portrayed and captured. In fact, everything about this film really worked - I just loved it!
For me, one of the key learning points, was how easy it can be to manipulate a mob. They may start off believing one thing, but all it takes is a few strategically and tactically placed phrases, and you can turn the mob and make them believe the complete opposite. And then when the mob have turned and are baying for blood, even the most respected and rational person cannot make them change their minds. That is how easy it is to turn the mob against someone, so that they go from being an admired and revered leader to a hated and detested dictator. Yes, Coriolanus is arrogant, but he by no means, and in no way whatsoever, deserves to be humiliated and banished in the way that happens in the play.
To summarise, I loved this, took it straight to my heart, and will be rushing to see it again when it gets its UK cinema release. Anyone with any sense will be doing the same as me! The planned UK cinema release date for Coriolanus is Friday 13 January 2012.
Photo credit: http://coriolanus-movie-trailer.blogspot.com/