Fiennes directorial debut a hit in Berlin

British actor Ralph Fiennes won applause at the Berlin film festival Monday for his directorial debut, "Coriolanus", a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy about a vengeful Roman general.

The all-star cast includes the two-time Oscar nominee in the title role alongside Vanessa Redgrave as his ambitious mother Volumnia and Gerald Butler as Tullus Aufidius, an enemy army commander.

Swapping swords and sandals for automatic weapons and mobile phones, the film borrows from present-day conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq by depicting a world power locked in combat with insurgents.

The picture's script was written by John Logan, the screenwriter of "Gladiator" and "The Aviator", and reimagines one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays as a contemporary look at the overreach of empires.

Fiennes, 48, said he had played the role in a London theatre 10 years ago and the wars of the last decade had underlined the relevance of the story.

"The idea of Coriolanus as a film was inside my head and heart for some time," he told reporters after a well-received press screening.

"All around me, even before 9/11 but certainly afterwards, I kept seeing images in newspapers and on television that seemed to come from this story. I felt more and more convinced that the world around us was the right setting for this piece."

Filmed in Belgrade, the picture shows Fiennes as a loyal warrior whose triumphs on the battlefield propel him toward a political career in Rome.

But he finds himself unable to adapt to the expectations of the angry citizens of the empire and is eventually banished. Isolated and humiliated, Coriolanus leaves his family behind and takes up arms with Aufidius.

But in the wrenching dramatic climax, his mother seeks him out at the rebel camp with a final plea for him to return home.

Redgrave, 74, said Volumnia was a challenge even for a seasoned actress.

"I didn't think I could play her but thanks to the fact that Ralph is an extraordinary director, I had complete trust in him," she said.

"He assembled such a fantastic team of people, all of whom had trust in him and therefore we had trust in each other.

"For some reason, but basically for that reason, I felt that I could see my way to a woman who was prepared for her son to be killed rather than for him to lose his honour or his country. It's a concept that I think is very unfamiliar today except in military families."

Butler, best known for his roles in the blockbuster "300" and a string of romantic comedies, said he relished the chance to sink his teeth into Shakespeare.

"Something intellectual is always challenging for me," the 41-year-old joked.

"I wasn't somebody who was brought up steeped in Shakespeare. And to enter into this venture at such a high level with Ralph and Vanessa... was just amazing."

Fiennes said there was a clear homoerotic component in the relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius which he and Butler consciously brought to the screen.

"The erotic element is very apparent in Shakespeare's story," he said.

"In the battle scene, the physical contact should be suggestive of some kind of love-making."

"Coriolanus" is one of 16 films in the running for the festival's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded Saturday by a jury led by Italian-American actress and director Isabella Rossellini.

Other contenders include "Margin Call" starring Kevin Spacey and Demi Moore in a thriller about the start of the financial crisis and "Tales of the Night", a 3D animated feature by France's Michel Ocelot.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all