Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ralph Fiennes: Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus, The Weinstein Co., 2012.

Forging the cultural influences of Shakespearean theatre and military bravado, thespian-turned director Ralph Fiennes has conjured a pulpy mass of sheerly gorgeous imagery and stimulating ideas in his masterful directorial debut, Coriolanus.

Ace screenwriter John Logan fuses the natural eloquence of Shakespeare's language with the terse, ultimate masculinity of an Iraq war film, allowing Fiennes' peculiarly moving creation to feel furiously alive and original. Barry Ackroyd's camera is an edge-dwelling warrior in and of itself, giving forth the bitter light of Bigelow's The Hurt Locker kissed by a frame blurring glow. Fiennes directs like he acts; no-nonsense yet gracious; raw yet structured. His mastery as an actor has now been matched by his firm hand behind the camera.

An astonishing cast is assembled, including Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and it-girl Jessica Chastain, all burrowing deep within themselves to cast forth the depth to be found in the spirit and the words. Yet it is Fiennes, as the Roman general of the title, and Gerard Butler as his adversary and, ultimately, other half, which haunt the film. Steeped in a fantasy netherworld where Rome is a modern state torn by Civil war, Shakespeare's antique play about battle and brotherhood is transformed into a prescient critique of the times we live in now.

For any film to achieve the wonder of ungraspable fantasy, while skewing the way we relate to one another amidst masculinity and miltarism, is something of a legend. For Fiennes to have accomplished that with his first film is golden.

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