Based on the Shakespearean play about the Roman general and his contempt for the common people. He is successful in his fight against Aufidius (Gerald Butler) and his Volscians but then Coriolanus is exiled and joins Aufidius to attack Rome. His mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) moves him to pity but Aufidius feels he’s been let down by Coriolanus…
This is a modern Serbian setting for Shakespeare’s Roman play. My only problem with modern appearance using 17th century dialogue is the mismatch that jars in the use of 17th century imagery. The iambic pentameters come out like machine gun bullets. Ralph Fienne’s performance as Coriolanus has been praised, which is deserved as he’s managed to make this haughtily patrician brute something resembling a human being. However this is where 21st century military costume lets down the Roman play, Coriolanus does not look like a remote aristocrat barely able to condescend to the Roman mob, he looks like a populist warlord mucking in with everybody in his combat gear. The bombed buildings and the corrugated iron encampments of a city under fire give the film a primal urgency which then can mix explosively with Shakespeare. Vanessa Redgrave’s Volumnia is of course Shakespearean actor aristocracy. Jessica Chastian hasn’t much to say as Coriolanus’ wife, but then she can’t compete with Volumnia. Brian Cox is Menenius and plays him like a world weary but ultimately a well meaning and avuncular figure. James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson play the tribunes of the people and in this film look like seedy mob manipulators. Because of the visually induced anachronisms in the language there are scenes which are a bit comical in a sort of gentle Monty Python-ish way, Jon Snow is a newscaster speaking Shakespearean English (he is a familiar face from British television’s Channel Four). The two tribunes are assaulted verbally and physically by V. Redgrave on the steps of the government building. Gerald Butler as Aufidius is action man with a nice line in metaphors, it does sometimes work.
This enjoyable film makes me want to go back to the text.