Defiant Pride on Screen

Did you know that Ralph Fiennes has made a movie version of Coriolanus, to be released in the U.S. in the fall?

Coriolanus is Shakespeare’s biggest badass. He is a Roman warrior who charges into the city of Corioles. The other soldiers hold back. The gates are shut…So Coriolanus subdues the city by himself!

That is just the beginning. The Romans hail Coriolanus as a hero, but the tribunes of the people are jealous. Impenetrably proud, Coriolanus refuses to play politics, so his enemies stir up his infamous choler and then contrive to have him banished for treason.

Coriolanus’ speech before leaving the city is just about the most audacious badass diatribe ever written:

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,
Making not reservation of yourselves,
Still your own foes, deliver you as most
Abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.

Mel Gibson’s reaction to Gary Sinise’s demand for ransom in the movie of that name reminded me of Coriolanus’ fiery defiance:

(WARNING: Low-quality video, plus a lot of bad words.)

(Mel gets the boy back alive, by the way, and Sinise winds up…well, not alive.)

This Fiennes movie of Coriolanus could really stink. There is a precedent: in 1983, the BBC made a movie version, with the hero depicted as a thwarted homosexual. It is a disgrace, and I have never seen cinematography more obtuse.

But be that as it may, long live Coriolanus! May the defiant badasses of the world prosper in triumph.