While it is not the most popular amongst Shakespeare’s work, Coriolanus is the story of a Roman general who is only skilled at killing with an inability to find empathy as he is made a leader of men. Compared to his other works, this later tragedy is one of Shakespeare’s most complex. Coriolanus is a general turned politician who is hated by the people who elected him in the first place, which leads him to ally with his arch nemesis to attack his own homeland.
In ancient Rome, right after a famine, the plebeians demand the right to price their own city’s grain supply. In response to the protests, the aristocrats appoint the plebeians five representatives. This causes war to break out with a neighboring Italian tribe, the Volscians, who are led by Tulles Aufidus, Coriolanus’ rival. Coriolanus triumphs over the Volscians and upon his return to Rome, the Senate offers to make him consul. A decision that at first was agreed upon by the people, but later on go to consider Coriolanus as an enemy of the people because of the prodding of two tribes, Brutus and Sicinius. This drives Coriolanus to speak out in rage, which drives him into exile. Due to his proud and chauvinistic nature, Coriolanus seeks revenge on Rome by teaming up with Aufidius. Together they attack Rome, however Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia asks him to make peace. Aufidius declares this as treachery and Coriolanus is assassinated by Aufidius’ men.
Ralph Fiennes, in his directorial debut, created his own cinematic adaptation of this play which drips with masculine aggression. And, from the first moments of the film, everything is seen through the mind of a man solely focused on war. However, Fiennes can see Coriolanus for the military hero he is as well the complicated figure of masculinity. And Fiennes himself plays the Roman General Caius Martius in modern camouflage and “…there are moments here of startling intimacy — whispers, promises, threats, pleas — that could never work on the stage, where the actor’s voice must boom to the back rows.”
The original play is set in early Rome. And, the movie was filmed in Serbia and Montenegro on locations suffering from recent warfare which portrayed Shakespeare’s civil strife between Rome’s aristocrats and it’s people and between Rome and the Volsces. While the film retains all of the original names, as in any film adaptation there are differences between the original play. One of the major differences is that Fiennes and screenplay writer John Logan cut back about half of the original text. Logan cut it down to short and often almost dialogue free scenes.
However, “they made sure the verse that remained was treated with wholesome respect.” And in most of the scenes, perhaps in an effort to modernize, the scenes are played out a little different. However, the idea is still the same because Fiennes, who is a Shakespearian veteran, “…uses devices and images that specifically serve Shakespeare’s purpose”. For example, in Act II, Shakespeare...