I saw the Ralph Fiennes-directed movie of “Coriolanus” several weeks ago, in one of our local art-movie theaters. I had never seen the play performed, and had never read it, though I did read a detailed summary ahead of time.
As you can tell from the still, Fiennes chose to use a contemporary setting, and that, I feel, made the movie. The film was shot in eastern Europe, in Belgrade, and all of the soldiers, and the warfare that’s shown, could easily have come from a news report. They wear modern uniforms, carry modern rifles, and are festooned with modern gear as they duck in an out of a grubby, destroyed urban landscape littered with dead or terrified civilians.
Fiennes heightens the modern feel by smoothly working in the use of modern technology. When his character, Caius Martius, is receiving a briefing from a herald in the the original version, the movie translates the herald into a soldier reporting in via Skype. Other narrative summaries happen on television screens, the actors flawlessly reading their Shakespearean lines in the cadence of BBC reporters.
After all the heavy weaponry, it’s shockingly brutal and realistic when Caius Martius and his enemy, Tullus Aufidius, fight each other with knives, struggling and wrestling in the dust. There’s plenty of blood to brighten the olive greens and grays of the main color palette.
All that said, you should see this movie if for no other reason than to witness Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, the mother of Caius Martius. She’s incredible, completely ruling the screen every instant she’s on it.