“They lie deadly that tell you have good faces.” (Coriolanus, Act II – Scene 1)
Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut, based on one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays, may feel like a strange choice for an Akira Kurosawa film club film. And perhaps it is. But there is something about Coriolanus that has stayed with me ever since I first saw it. It is an intelligent, visually striking film, which asks some interesting questions. And when you think about it, those questions are actually familiar from a number of Kurosawa’s films, too.
In a nutshell, Coriolanus centers around the dilemma of what to do with our soldiers when they return home. How does peacetime society accept its warriors, and how do they in turn accept the society? Although Kurosawa never adapted this particular Shakespeare play, many of his post-war films circled around this very question, with Stray Dog which we will watch next month perhaps most straightforwardly tackling it. But echoes of it can also be found at least in The Quiet Duel, The Idiot, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood.
Unlike Kurosawa, Fiennes is not necessarily referencing an actual war. Still, his adaptation is similarly contemporary, presenting us a Rome that very much resembles a modern-day state in the Balkans. The language may be Shakespearean but the frame into which it is placed is here, today. The film features outstanding performances by Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler and Fiennes himself, as well as striking visual direction and excellent sound design.
I thought it would be interesting to revisit this perhaps somewhat overlooked film. I hope you agree.
Here’s a trailer:
In many countries, the film is available for digital rental though Google Play, Amazon Prime Video and/or iTunes. Or if you have no luck with that, Blu-ray and DVD copies can be found for next to nothing from places like Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
I’m curious to hear what you think about the film and how its themes possibly resonate with Kurosawa’s works.