Heroes, Villains, and Balkans: Intertextual Masculinities in Ralph Fiennes's Coriolanus
Filmed Shakespeare often reinvents the poet’s drama by appropriating popular representational devices. One technique, intertextual referencing by means of casting or setting selection, provides a crucial but ontologically unstable means by which the adaptor of Shakespeare heightens relevance and increases popular appeal. Ralph Fiennes’s 2011 adaptation of Coriolanus (1607/08) instantiates the vexed layers of association generated by means of such intertextuality. By casting himself as the titular general and Gerard Butler as his nemesis Aufidius, Fiennes shorthands filmic intertexts that shape a viewer’s access to the Roman play; both the Harry Potter oeuvre and 300 serve as notable reference points pressuring characterization. On the one hand, these intertexts access film idiom to confront mythologies of masculinity grounded in violence and to explore such myths both as self-defining and self-annihilating. However, complicating the movie’s critique of masculine identity is Fiennes’s choice to film in Serbia and Montenegro as well as to utilize found news footage from the 1990s Yugoslav Wars. Fiennes’s recontextualization of the Roman-Volsce conflict accesses a raft of stereotypes of the Balkan male as violent and uncontrollable that yoke an entire European region to the patterns of self-destruction manifested by Coriolanus and Aufidius. Thus, Fiennes’s filmic and historical intertexts inadvertently impress the seal of Shakespearean approval on dubious European stereotypes of the Balkan Other. We see in Fiennes’s film that as adaptative alterations strive to render the canon relevant and accessible, they simultaneously provoke new interpretive and ethical considerations.
Pittman, L Monique, "Heroes, Villains, and Balkans: Intertextual Masculinities in Ralph Fiennes's Coriolanus" (2015). Faculty Publications. 27.