Ralph Fiennes is taking a handful of risks as a first time director with his debut film Coriolanus, creating a modern-day adaptation of one of William Shakespeare’s most under-appreciated works. Fiennes will star as the title character in addition to his directorial duties. Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave balance out the cast and considering their characters, the roles are perfect for each of them.
It will be interesting to see how Fiennes presents the complicated story of rivalry, politics, war and revenge. Not only is Coriolanus complex, but it deals with some quite recognizable issues, like the relevance of democracy and its effect in times of violence. It was even banned by some democratic governments at points in history.
While the story could be explained over the course of an hour, The Playlist, who has been following the production closely, seems to have the lowdown on the film’s focus:
“The story follows General Coriolanus (Fiennes) as he enters Roman Senate on the insistence of his mother (Redgrave). However, when he is banished from Rome for rioting after failing to win the public’s support, he must team with sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Butler), in taking out revenge on the city.”
If only this tragedy from Shakespeare was that simple. I find it hard to believe that is all the film will touch upon, considering it is based on a deep concern for the way democracy works. There is also a large amount of plot missing in that synopsis, but it may be part of tightening the story.
Instead of a time piece, the film will take place in a modern setting of war, lending itself to the latest trend of the filmmaking process. Set photos show some of aesthetic created and it is reminiscent of the gritty nature of The Hurt Locker. If you remember, Fiennes actually had a small role in the film during its unforgettable sniper scene. The success of Kathryn Bigelow’s film will undoubtedly play a part in Fiennes’ confidence in the alternate setting of a long overdue work in need of a mass audience.
Behind the cameras are The Hurt Locker cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and Green Zone camera operator Oliver Driscoli. The two bring some battlefield camerawork experience, with an emphasis on shaky-cam realism that will actually make a unique blend with the dialogue and epic scale of the story.
Fiennes has said some interesting things regarding his approach to the lesser-known story. He’ll be taking quite a risk by implementing original Shakespearean dialogue in a modern setting, a la Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. But even then, Luhrmann’s piece was highly stylized and it felt reasonable that something so absurd as contemporary people speaking the dialect could occur. It may instead be more similar to Michael Almereyda’s unique Hamlet. Fiennes discussed his intentions with Reuters UK:
“Coriolanus as a play is thought to be difficult … as the text is very dense. We’ve edited it quite aggressively and this is the case with Shakespeare adaptions, you have to lose a lot of text … but the narrative lines of Coriolanus are very dynamic.”
The film looks to be even more promising considering the people behind the scenes. John Logan has written the script and with his resume including Gladiator, The Aviator and The Last Samurai it should be safe to say he knows his epics. And make no mistake about it, Coriolanus is an epic by all standards.
Coriolanus is currently in production in Serbia, where all filming will take place.