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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Coriolanus

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Gerard Butler and Ralph Fiennes star in the movie "Coriolanus."
When your lead character proclaims, "The blood I drip is more medicinal than painful for me," you know someone's gonna get hurt. Or maybe hundreds.

Welcome to the big-screen treatment of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Coriolanus" (Weinstein), a consistently brutal and violent film which, when not shedding blood, offers a searing commentary on power, betrayal and revenge.

Making his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes also takes on the starring role as the Roman general originally called Caius Marcius. Personifying evil and megalomania seems to be second nature to Fiennes by now, having cut his teeth as Lord Voldemort in all those "Harry Potter" films.

Screenwriter John Logan updates the drama's setting from ancient Rome to an imaginary version of the same locale in the present day.

The Eternal City is torn by strife and street fighting, resembling a bombed-out Baghdad. The people are hungry and ready to riot. Marcius has saved Rome, once again, from its enemies. But the mob blames him for diverting supplies to feed his troops.

"Coriolanus," however, is the antithesis of "Gladiator." Marcius pays no attention to public opinion or the nascent forces of democracy. Peace makes him restless. He lives only to fight and protect the city he loves.

War flares again, and Marcius gets back to doing what he does best. This time it's the Volscians who march on Rome, led by Marcius' nemesis, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The Volscians are vanquished in the town of Corioles, earning our anti-hero general a new moniker, Coriolanus.

Coriolanus' redoubled fame inspires both Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), his viper of a mother, and scheming politician Menenius (Brian Cox). Together, they persuade Coriolanus to run for consul, harnessing social media and television in the effort. They see in him a messianic figure who could rule at will. (While they, of course, pull the strings.)

But his campaign goes disastrously awry. Before long, Coriolanus is accused of treason and disgraced — banished, ironically, from the city he once saved from destruction.

Suffice it to say, hell hath no fury like a warlord scorned. Revenge is in the cards, and Coriolanus thinks the Volscians just might be interested in his plans.

Which side wins in "Coriolanus," good or evil? That's a moral conundrum Shakespeare scholars have been trying to unravel for 500 years. One thing at least is certain: "Coriolanus" is not for the faint of heart.

The film contains intense and pervasive violence, including shootings, stabbings, explosions and torture. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R —restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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