Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review (sort of): Coriolanus (2012 DVD)

Well, after waiting for months to finally get my hands on a DVD of the new remake of "Coriolanus" starring Ralph Feinnes and Gerard Butler, I must confess that I was disappointed.  I had so hoped that, with the star power of two of my favorite actors, the film makers would give us a motion picture based on the general plot line of the Shakespearean play but give us more modern and natural dialogue.  (Sorry, Will, but your 15th century prose is so stilted and difficult to grasp at times it is REALLY distracting with the backdrop of a modern-day action movie).

As expected the acting was superb, especially with such acting veterans as Vanessa Redgrave playing Coriolanus' mother.  Gerard Butler was also back in fine form.  But the modern sets, costume and attitudes just served to emphasize the antiquated dialogue.  My husband and I usually watch any disks we get from Netflix together and despite the action, he revolted and demanded something else after only about 30 minutes.

I have actually seen a modernized version of "Coriolanus" before at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival down in Ashland a couple of years ago.  There, since I was prepared to hear Shakespeare, I enjoyed the performance despite the fact that I prefer my historical epics to be costumed for the period.  (As costumes are such an integral part of a live performance, I am always a bit disappointed when the producers opt for St. Vincent de Paul leftovers instead of burnished Roman cuirasses and dashing crested helmets.)

But I was taken off guard by the latest big screen version.  The trailer had succeeded in building up my expectation of an action packed thriller with a twist of political duplicity.  If you notice, there is no long rambling Shakespearean passages, just short phrases containing words that could have been spoken in modern dialogue.

 Instead I got “Know thou first, I loved the maid I married; never man sigh’d truer breath; but that I see thee here, thou noble thing more dances my rapt heart than when I first my wedded mistress saw bestride my threshold.”

Maybe "Coriolanus" will eventually make it to Netflix instant streaming and I can watch it alone without spousal distraction.  Maybe my appreciation for it will grow.  However, I do hope someday a filmmaker will actually take the legend of "Coriolanus" and produce a box office smash.  I'm afraid this wasn't it.

For a more thorough (and positive) review of Ralph Feinnes directing debut, I recommend the following:

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for reviewing Coriolanus, Mary. Yesterday, before leaving my office at DISH, I saw online that Coriolanus was available to download to my Hopper DVR. I rented it and it was ready to play when I got home. I can see how the Bards prose could distract you from the action on screen, but I have always had an affinity for Shakespeare and I found the movie to be an interesting mix of shoot em up and Shakespearian dialogue. I agree that the trailer is a little misleading; I would bet that a lot of people weren’t ready for the film and may have walked away like your husband.

Mary Harrsch said...

I am glad you enjoyed it Edgar. The legend of Coriolanus is a moving examination of the transient nature of celebrity and the basic human need for acknowledgement. I was also glad to see Gerard Butler back in a serious role again, too, after that string of forgettable romantic comedies.

Although he's probably most famous for his role in "300", being a Roman history buff, I particularly enjoyed his U.S. debut in the "Attila" miniseries.