47th Annual CIFF: Coriolanus
by Ruben R. Rosario
Playing in the 47th Chicago International Film Festival on October 13th at 8:00 pm.
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Coriolanus is an exercise within the work of Shakespeare that is an absolute masterpiece. Ralph Fiennes pulls double duty in directing and starring in the film as the lead tragic hero and does an excellent job at both. The film is set in modern day, yet retains it’s states of Rome and Volsci and the Shakespearean speech of the tragic play. The film follows Caius Martus (Ralph Fiennes), champion of Rome and hated by the people. After a series of events, he is named Coriolanus and then exiled from the city. It is then that he sides with the Volscian army to take revenge on the government and people of his former home. Coriolanus shows how the power of Shakespeare’s works shall always thrive and even pertain to modern day events.
Fiennes does an excellent job at handling his acting duties on screen and impresses for his directorial debut. His portrayal of the soldier is within the film is very unsympathetic, yet understandable in his violent and savage nature. Caius Martus has been raised on the battlefield, not within Rome, so when it comes time for him to serve the people in a different fashion, he finds himself at odds with his own very nature. There’s a great image of Ralph Fiennes early in the film, as he wears his army fatigues, and all of his exposed skin is covered in blood that defines his very existence as this warrior. The delivery and power of his lines are just absolutely incredible and proves how strong of an actor the Fiennes is. The casting of the rest of the film helps by having the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt and Gerard Butler not only help the film dramatically, but show the skill and care that Fiennes has taken for his first feature.
The aesthetics of Coriolanus benefit from being shot on location in Serbia and Montenegro, as well as being photographed by Barry Ackroyd. The former war torn countries of the early 90’s give the film a raw and gritty look through Ackroyd’s lens. The color palate of the cities and county sides, the muted earth tones and the cold grey’s give Coriolanus a strong presence, much like its performances. It’s stylistically much different than the visual approach of Julie Taymore’s films or the grandiose and extravagance made by Kenneth Braghnagh. It’s in this visual approach that Ackroyd helps Fiennes create such a raw and visceral piece that will mesmerize audiences everywhere.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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