- Gail Tolley
- 5 January 2012
Ralph Fiennes proves as adept behind the camera as in front of it in this Shakespeare adaptation
Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut is a powerful reimagining of the Shakespearean tragedy and is a resonant story about leadership, politics and power.
Acting as well as directing, Fiennes stars as the central character, the eponymous Roman soldier whose contempt for the masses prevents him from gaining the support of the people, despite his valiant efforts in battle. It doesn’t take long before he finds himself falling victim to the city’s scheming politicians, the pressures of his family and his own pride.
Through the use of bare Serbian locations, and frantic, restless cinematography courtesy of Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), Fiennes creates a modern day, war-torn Rome that is charged with civil unrest. Crucially, though, Fiennes chooses to retain the original Shakespearean language. Initially this combination of traditional dialogue and contemporary aesthetics feels slightly at odds, yet gradually the atmosphere takes hold, helped along by excellent performances from the cast, including Brian Cox as Meneius, Vanessa Redgrave as Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia and rising star Jessica Chastain playing his quiet, watchful wife Virgilia. The end result is a portrait of a flailing leader that feels as pertinent now as it ever did.