Ralph Fiennes fails to inject one of the Bard’s most talky texts with any cinematic impetus.
We need to talk about Shakespeare. Even though there’s no polite way of saying it. No way you can say it without planting your flag alongside the anti-intellectual forces of darkness. But then again, it has to be said: there’s no place for William Shakespeare in cinema.
Not like this, anyhow. Not this dull drone of a dead language. Shakespeare may have been a genius. 'Coriolanus' may be a masterpiece. But up there on screen, it’s a relic of a forgotten era, stripped of meaning, power and purpose.
Why do we pretend that Shakespeare, and only Shakespeare, is inviolable? Why do we tinker with the context – as Ralph Fiennes does here, fruitlessly searching for contemporary relevance and finding only clichés –when the problem goes so much deeper? Blank verse. Blank faces.
And so Coriolanus unfolds in agonising monologues as the savagely patrician General wins and loses the support of the citizenry in a time of crisis, turns traitor and is in turn betrayed for his sins. It is a meditation on the nature of power; the relationship between ruler and ruled; the fickleness of the mob. It is dressed in the drab greys of military life and fascist insignia, and it is inhabited by our most pre-eminent and preening thesps who are left to indulge themselves under Fiennes’ awkward eye.
The problem is that Fiennes has failed to inject one of the Bard’s most talky texts with any cinematic impetus. On stage, all that posturing, that capital-A acting – that fucking monologuing – may well be spellbindingly powerful. But cinema is, well, many things but it’s not a stage – it doesn’t reward impassivity and grandstanding. And it especially doesn’t reward it in what is, essentially, a foreign language.
Cinema is an adaptive medium, yes, but it’s also a medium that deals in adaptations. Not transliterations. In treating Shakespeare not just as timeless but as changeless, we don’t respect his work – we mummify it.
Ralph Fiennes puts his directing hat on for the first time. This looks serious.
Agonisingly incomprehensible, long-winded and mealy mouthed.
No more Shakespeare until we agree it needs to be translated into real English, please.