Ralph Fiennes premieres his directing debut, an adaptation of the Bard's Coriolanus, at the Berlin Film Festival next week. Making the precarious leap from actor to director, Fiennes headed to Belgrade, Serbia in early 2010 to shoot the film, in which he takes the lead alongside Gerard Butler and Brian Cox.
"It's a political thriller", he explains. "A story of power-politics centred around one man and his relationship with his mother." Coriolanus is an unpopular Roman general who, under pressure from his mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), seeks to run for consul. Having won over both the Roman senate and the mob, he is undone by the connivances of two tribunes. As a result he is branded a traitor and banished, before forming a coalition of sorts with mortal enemy Tullus Aufidius (Butler) – and returning to Rome in search of vengeance.
Shakespeare has been given a contemporary twist – more guns and mobiles than swords and scrolls – by John Logan, the man behind Gladiator and The Last Samurai, as well as the recently green-lit new Bond movie.
The only British offering at Berlin, Coriolanus offers a timely reminder that power and politics are rarely straightforward. "Many of the themes are connected to situations in our world today," Fiennes said.
The Berlin Film Festival runs from 10-20 February (www.berlinale.de)