Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Coriolanus": TWC and BBC offer less known Shakespeare tragedy in a modern, war ravaed Balkan setting

Hollywood sometimes likes to take Shakespeare’s historical plays and recast them into modern, dystopic settings.

In 2011, Ralph Fiennes directed and starred as Caius Martius, given the cognomen of  (play and film name) Coriolanus who is banished by his own country and then bonds with former enemies to extract a violent revenge.

The modern film is shot in Serbia, and uses the urban and rural destruction of the long wars of the 1990s, and maybe some rough parallels to recent history. 

The “making of” extra on the Anchor Bay and Weinstein Company (and BBC)  DVD stresses that the “Rome” in the film could be any modern city after civil strife has destroyed it.

There is an interesting bit of moral politics at the beginning of the play (adapted by screenwriter John Logan). The plebeians, or “proles”, are denied food and grain because they haven’t served in the military, a play on more modern implementations of conscription.

The film played at the West End Cinema in Washington DC late in 2011. 

The adaptation (which must omit some of the play to fit into exactly two hours) would make interesting viewing for an AP English high school class, although some teachers might be put off by the gratuitous personal violence, especially at the end. 

The image of crossed rifles on the DVD (with fixed bayonets) seems to provide a metaphor for modern genocidal war. 

The official site is here.

The play inspired the Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, by Beethoven. Christian Thielemann conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in this video from late 2011, link  The overture ends quietly.  I had an Angel recording of this with Klemperer back in the 1960s.
This movie could be compared with the PBS film “Macbeth”, reviewed on the TV blog Jan. 30, 2012.  

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