Coriolanus: Super Butch

14 05 2012

When I was teaching high school in Australia, I went to a two day workshop entitled “Shakespeare for Boys”. At the conference, much was made of the strong resistance boys typically show towards studying Shakespeare. The school I was at had chosen Macbeth (wisely, I think) as its Shakespearean text on the grounds that it had more to appeal to male teenagers – with its darkness and blood – than, say “A Midsummer Nights Dream”.

For some of these educators, “Coriolanus” will come as a godsend – except that it is probably too violent to be shown in schools anyway.

Ralph Fienne’s directorial debut sees an obscure Shakespeare tragedy brought to the modern age, pumped full of testosterone and shot in Belgrade for added ugliness. Its a gritty and stark exploration of mob violence and dirty politics which could hardly be better timed, given the current mood in Europe. The film comes complete with grim-looking unshaven Slavic men in wifebeaters, crappy apartment blocks, explosions, lots of regional accents and angular grafitti. Its compelling stuff, even if self-indulgent for its director and star. There are numerous opportunities for Ralph to launch into wild-eyed monologues, spitting into the camera at close range, his face covered theatrically in blood. He also participates with Gerard Butler in the most homoerotic stabbing scene ever.

Vanessa Redgrave has fun too, in an against-type role as a warlike harpie.




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