No, this isn’t a joke – I really did watch two Shakespeare films in a row recently. Lovefilm why you so crazy like that?
The first was Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays updated into a modern setting, both directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes. Although ‘getting the contemporary retelling’ has become somewhat de rigeur for the majority of The Bard’s pieces, this is the first time Coriolanus has been brought to the big screen in any form.
The story, which tells of a banished war hero joining forces with his greatest enemy to take revenge on his own country, is somewhat slow and dialogue heavy but works really well in a modern setting - where politics and ulterior motives affect the outcome of warfare as much as brute force does.
Although the film does contain moments of shooting, explosions and knife fights, the majority of it is very dialogue heavy, ALL of which is spoken as it was in the original Shakespeare’s play. So if you couldn't sit through Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo + Juliet or Ethan Hawke as Hamlet then chances are you probably wont be able to stomach this.
Personally I enjoyed the film – Ralph Fiennes is charismatic as the lead, with good turns from Gerald Butler and Brian Cox (and even an extended Jon Snow cameo!). A particular standout performance however comes from Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, whose moving speech toward the end of the film is a highlight.
If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s work then chances are that you will enjoy this. If not, you will probably be unable to sit through it.
The second film of the double bill isn’t actually by Shakespeare. It’s about him – or more specifically about his work. Anonymous posits that William Shakespeare was but a front man for the famous plays, sonnets and poems – all of which were actually written in secret by the Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere.
Rhys Ifans stars in the main role with support from Rafe Spall as a cocky young Will and Vanessa Redgrave (again!) as Queen Elizabeth. Her real life daughter, Joely Richardson, plays the young queen to great effect in flashback sequences.
Although the central premise is intriguing, the story and events are a bit muddled at times. Rather than the liberal mixing of fact and fiction being to blame (which actually works quite well – including many referential Shakespearean ‘in-jokes’), the overall narrative isn’t as clear as it could be.
Having said that, the production and design on this film is fantastic – not surprising since it was directed by Roland Emmerich, most known for his disaster movie epics such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and Godzilla. It all looks great but cant quite match up to it in terms of delivering the story.
To watch or not to watch? That is the question. In a nutshell, both films in this double bill are worth a look at, but how much enjoyment you get out of them will likely depend on how much of a Shakespeare fan you are.
11 July 2012