Review: Coriolanus

I recently watched the curious movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The fascinating thing is that they attempt to keep to Shakespeare’s dialogue with a play set in a modern context.

The truly remarkable thing is that it works. The dialogue actually fits with the modern setting. The setting chosen was a “country that called itself ‘Rome.'” It looks like Eastern Europe or the Balkans. But the dialogue depends a lot on the government of Ancient Rome, so the country is completely imaginary.

I have to say first and foremost that it was an amazing movie. Shakespeare’s poetic and articulate dialogue made modern guerrilla warfare extremely dramatic and Ralph Fieniess’s Coriolanus was inspiring. This movie renewed my respect for and rekindled my love of Shakespeare.

The weird thing about this movie is that it was deeply anachronistic. The plot is based on a government and society that is two thousand years out of date. Hard class distinctions don’t exist in European countries anymore. The political machinations sometimes come off as slightly incoherent given the setting. But the dialogue wasn’t even written by a Roman, it was written by a 16th century Englishman. So random bits of 16th century British culture show up in the dialogue. Finally, the culture that I physically see is modern and theoretically Eastern European. Even stretching the imagination, it’s hard to imagine the position of Tribune of the Plebeians existing currently. It’s even harder to imagine a politician in a democracy who nearly refused to speak publicly or repeatedly insults the public.

Despite the mind-warping nature of the anachronistic movie adaptation, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it.


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