Reliance Home Video/Tanweer, Rs. 599
Not all competent Shakespeare-loving filmmakers are able to share their vision or love for a Shakespeare play when they translate it to film. People become downright sceptical when the play happens to be not one of the bard’s more well-known plays but the underrated Coriolanus, Shakespeare's most violent and one his most powerful creations. But Ralph Fiennes, in his directorial debut, pulls it off. And how.
Fiennes’s Coriolanus gains its extraordinary power by being set in contemporary settings — reminiscent of the Balkan wars in the ’90s (the film was shot mostly in Serbia) but with the possibility of being set in any fragile spot of the Euro zone today. Fiennes plays Caius Martius ‘Coriolanus’, the war hero of ‘Rome’, the feared general who protects his beloved city and its people he despises from the Volscian forces led by Tullus Aufidius, played by Gerard Butler jumping from his role as King Leonidas of Sparta to a Rome-threatening warlord.
But it’s Fiennes who is the captivating warrior in this film — flawed by his arrogance and bent to confusion and exile by the people who see him as a threat to their liberties and the politicians who see him as an obstacle for their ambitions. The hero is turned into the ‘enemy of the people’ overnight, leading Coriolanus to seek revenge with the help of his old enemy, Aufidius.
Fiennes is brilliant, portraying the fiercely proud, stunningly betrayed and damagingly confused Coriolanus. Vanessa Redgrave as his proud mother, Volumnia, plays a difficult role with utter dramatic poise that could have slid into melodrama under a less talented actor.
What Fiennes, both as director and actor, has achieved in this brutally physical and psychological film is explore the subjects of loyalty, treachery, politics and grudging admiration — not to mention the core question of whether it is better to be feared or loved — with aplomb. And he does this using the ‘archaic’ language of Shakespeare without making the viewer be constantly reminded that this is a Shakespeare play. For us, this is a contemporary film depicting issues relevant in the here and now.
His darker materials
The Woman in Black
Reliance Home, Rs. 599
What is it about Daniel Radcliffe that allows him to shake all over in utter horror and yet look resolute? Maybe it’s his thin lips and strong jawline; maybe it’s his age. Whatever it is, Radcliffe has brought the look he perfected over seven years doing the Harry Potter series of films to The Woman in Black. Before you think it’s a postmodern sequel to Men in Black, let’s tell you it’s the latest film adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 horror novel of the same name. And the 2011 film is already on its way to having a sequel of its own.
Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer and single father of a four-year-old son, is sent off to a small English town to get the papers needed to sell a property, the Eel Marsh House. On learning of his business, everyone is the village shuns him and prods him to get back to the city. But Kipps, who had been warned that he would lose his job if he failed, pushes on to the abandoned manor across a swamp that’s only accessible at low tide. His only ally is the wealthiest family in the village, Sam Daily and his wife Elisabeth, who sees dark visions of death. Kipps realises a kid died in the manor and sees, or thinks he sees, a woman on the grounds clad in — any guesses? — black. The horror is that every time he sees her, a kid dies mysteriously in the village. Will his own son, who’s coming over with his nanny, be in trouble?
The tension in this sepia toned film is kept up unrelentingly by the conventional score. The moments of horror are accentuated in a Hitchcockian way, finally packing all the tension into a single room. And Radcliffe? Well, he does the non-hippy shake.