Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus Trailer

Ralph Fiennes directs himself, and Gerard Butler, in a modern day re-imagining of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. It's epic Shakespeare that takes in a character study of a powerful leader, revenge, betrayal, war and politics. The script is adapted by John Logan (Gladiator, The Last Samurai), and Fiennes roughs it up with a tough, military feel. 

It is Fiennes' first attempt as director, and he has taken on quite a tricky project - modernising Shakespeare is an exciting, but risky, endeavor. His stories and characters are such timeless crowd pleasers, it is easy to see  why directors are eager to dress them up for a new generation, and liberate them from the classical stuffiness bestowed by high school literature teachers.

When it works, it is invigorating - see Baz Luhrmann's sensational, audacious MTV-styled Romeo + Juliet and Gil Junger turning Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew into a successful teen comedy. Luhrmnn pulls off the tougher trick of successfully importing the bard's classical language to its hip hop gangster setting. Jessica Scheinbach has compiled a cool, comprehensive list of unorthodox Shakespeare adaptations, which you can check out here.

Not quite modernised, but still bold reinventions, are Richard Loncraine's relocating of Richard III to an alternative, fascist 1930's England & Akira Kurosawa's classic reimagining of King Lear as an epic Samurai tragedy in Ran. 

Less successful attempts fall awkwardly flat, though, like Tim Blake Nelson's High School drama "O", translating the Bard's Othello into a tale of high school lust, betrayal and racial conflict between Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer & Julia Stiles and Michael Almereyda's artily ambitious, but uneven Ethan Hawke vehicle, Hamlet. Julia Stiles is clearly a fan and has worked her way into three Shakespeare adaptations - 10 Things I Hate About You, Othello & Hamlet. 

We will have to see if Fiennes pulls it off; if his performance works without an objective director to reign him in, if he can marry his gritty modern setting with the high drama of Shakespeare's dialogue and, most critically, if he can make a proper actor of Gerard Butler.

The Good:

The Bad:

And the Blah: