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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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Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). 
<p>John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. </p><p>His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). </p><p>John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic. </p><p>The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus. </p><p>Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.

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