Saw the recent film adaptation of the William Shakespeare play CORIOLANUS and thought it was inventive, interesting. The acting is superb – Ralph Fiennes (also directed) creates the character of Coriolanus in every single scene – we know who this person is aside from the language, Gerald Butler who I normally see as a likeable screen presence but a lightweight as an actor turns in perhaps his best film performance, Vanessa Redgrave steals the show with her scary intensity as Coriolanus’s mother.
What Fiennes has done in this adaptation is move the story to the present day. How Coriolanus is first selected to be Counsel and then rejected and banished due to his own inability to speak the language of the masses which is interpreted as arrogance and also due to the political machinations of several senators comes across as a story told by CNN. Some of the dialogue is even put into the mouths of pundits arguing on news chat shows.
When Coriolanus has his public breakdown, his loss of composure, where he lets the people really know what he thinks of them, it is done on television in the context of an interview. This is perfect as in today’s overly filmed overly miked world politicians often find themselves blurting out ugly truths either because they thought microphones were not nearby or not on etc.
I also found the use of cameraphones by the people filming Coriolanus in public a perfect touch as well.
Updating the set and scene of a Shakespeare play can be tricky. Coriolanus and Ian McKellan’s Richard the III are examples where it works. Romeo and Juliet with Leonard DiCaprio is an example where it doesn’t. The media often refers to certain politicians (Richard Nixon for examples) as Shakespearean so those Shakespeare plays which are dark character studies always translate best to the present.
I think Coriolanus’ story of the power of the military vs. the government is perfect for today’s times. I felt that despite the language this was a story for now. Ditto for the plotline about Coriolanus’ inability to mouth the platitudes and perform the base and humiliating rituals of politicians
I have often had the idea of updating Macbeth for the present setting it in a big corporation and having Macbeth be an ambitious junior executive, the three witches be human resource personnel, and all the deaths that take place be figurative (people being fired) as opposed to actual murders.