Coriolanus [Blu-Ray] Ralph Fiennes

Coriolanus [Blu-Ray] Ralph Fiennes
5
There's no need to play to the cheap seats in a film production. That's the problem with Coriolanus in a nutshell: the conflict between technique and medium. Extreme close-ups are useful for expressing subtly and the nuances of realistic emotional displays, but when grandiose stage acting is applied to that same framing style, the results are awkward and abrasive — flying spittle and mile-wide face contortions aren't intrinsic indicators of quality acting. For such a seasoned performer, Ralph Fiennes doesn't appear to have picked up any refined tricks of the trade on the other side of the camera. An obvious passion project, Fiennes's first turn in the director's chair is a surprisingly graceless version of one of Shakespeare's lesser-known works. There's a reason for that: despite the central character, Caius Martius, being a figure fascinating for his unguarded contempt of the common man, Coriolanus is among the Bard's least engaging narratives. The grandiloquence of the dialog has little humorous counterpoint or bridge to the viewpoints of the great-unwashed masses Martius so despises. However intentional the approach, it's alienating and makes it impossible to sympathize with any of the characters or their positions. Staunch and manipulative, or eminently malleable, the haves and have-nots are painted in stark black and white; we never really see the bloodthirsty military leader through any eyes but his. Besides having a serious yen to play the uncouth, misunderstood man who has no capacity to relate to the world outside of violent conflict, Ralph Fiennes clumsily shifts the setting to a fictional modern Rome, which could just as easily represent the civil strife of Ireland or Serbia. The food shortage that spurs the initial conflict between the upper and lower class doesn't really go anywhere, nor does it have any significant impact on the story. Once the Volscian forces (representing "the Enemy" in any violent territorial dispute) show up, Coriolanus shifts to a chest-beating war picture, complete with shaky cam, choppy editing and intimate violence then to political electioneering and finally to a series of speeches regarding which lines the stubborn and power hungry are willing to cross to satisfy their egos. Of the few women involved in the story (including a completely underused Jessica Chastain), Vanessa Redgrave gets the juicy role of Martius's mother, and her professional reserve stands in stark contrast to the performances of her co-stars (like that of Gerard Butler, who wouldn't know subtlety if it tickled his beard), though even she falls prey to a bit of scenery-chewing at Fiennes's behest. A short "Making Of" is typical feature fodder, with cast members who likely haven't seen the finished product praising the director's vision. Additionally, Lord Voldemort provides an extremely bland commentary track, mostly just describing the scenes instead of giving any insight into his motivations or methods. There isn't anything implicitly wrong with a modern retelling of a classic story, but there's plenty wrong with this one. (Alliance)