Recommended film – Coriolanus

HOLDING pride of place on our lounge bookshelf are finely bound copies of the plays of William Shakespeare.

Now the works of the Bard have come in many shapes and sizes in modern times. Only recently I saw a splendid stage production of The Taming of the Shrew in which the setting resembled scenes straight out of The Godfather, warring Mafia families and the like.


The film adaptation of Coriolanus, a seething tale of revenge and political scheming, has a very modern feel to it, with mobile phones, TV studio debates and flash cars with tinted windows amongst the visual accessories.

The action sequences – and there are many – together with the uniforms worn by the protagonists look remarkably similar to the many bloody Balkan conflicts we have witnessed in recent years. Indeed the film was shot in Serbia.

Shakespeare was believed to have written Coriolanus sometime between 1605 and 1608 and the plot centres on the Roman general Caius Marcius, later given the name Coriolanus because of his exploits in the battle field.

Coriolanus has his hands full, there are riots in Rome because of grain shortage, rebels from the Volscian army are on the way, and two tribunes from his own senate are out to get him.

When Coriolanus is banished from Rome, the scene is set for a bloody finale.

Coriolanus is played by Ralph Fiennes who was also making his directorial debut and he excels in both roles. He is helped by the fact that he has assembled a starry cast of British thespians including Vanessa Redgrave as his conniving mother, Gerard Butler as his Volscian rival Tullus Aufidius, Brian Cox and James Nesbitt.

This is a film littered with contemporary parallels and powerful images. Wills would have been proud.


I am a director of the Learn English Network. A non-profit organisation registered in the UK dedicated to helping people learning English and people who teach English online.

Learn English 2020