I recently had the opportunity to watch Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare Tragedy. Set in the fictional Eastern European military republic of Rome, Ralph Fiennes plays the title character who returns victorious from battle with the Volscians only to be betrayed by members of the Roman elite who turn the starving people of Rome against the prickly military commander. Betrayed and exiled, Coriolanus flees Rome and goes to join forces with his old enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Nominally accepting the leadership of Aufidius, Coriolanus marches on Rome.

The film is visually impressive and well-acted, but I found it lacking nonetheless. One of Fiennes’ stylistic decisions is to keep the Shakespearean language as best he is able. To my ear it was a jarring disconnect between the updated technology and appearance and the antiquated language. In many ways it kept the movie feeling more like a play than a blockbuster (if artistically done) movie. Perhaps that was the point and I know many people who adore that choice though I found it off-putting.

I am more of a traditionalist in this regard. If the choice had been to keep the traditional names and language, I expect the movie to go the whole way to making it traditional; conversely, if the choice had been to update the setting (which was done very well), then I would have expected updated language and names. Other people may argue that such artistic license would defeat the purpose of the movie, which was to remake Coriolanus. My answer is that seamlessly updating the language and names while keeping the plot no more ruins Coriolanus than does providing guns and tanks and a t.v. channel dedicated to the proceedings of the Senate. Leaving the language and names to me felt like a modern adaptation half-completed and I left the movie wishing that Fiennes had chosen one or the other route.

Nonetheless, I do not regret seeing Coriolanus. Though I would not likely re-watch it, it is still a good movie and well worth watching.

Some of my favorite things: books

The following is a list of my twenty favorite works of literature. The list is entirely subjective and takes into account how much I enjoyed the book, level of the writing, story, message, and issues dealt with. I also consider there to be a slight tier between 5 and 6.

True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics -Zamyatin

1. The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
3. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
4. Magister Ludi, Hermann Hesse
5. Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

6. The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth
7. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
8. Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell
9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
11. Dr. Faustus, Thomas Mann
12. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
13. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
14. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
15. Coming Up For Air, George Orwell
16. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
17. Creation, Gore Vidal
18. Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
19. American Gods, Neil Gaimon
20. Down and Out in London and Paris, George Orwell

Others I liked a lot, just not quite as much:

Good Omens, Neil Gaimon, Terry Pratchett
Burmese Days, George Orwell
The Clergyman’s Daughter, George Orwell
Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

Obviously this is a list based on personal judgement so it brooks no argument, but are there thoughts on this list or are there other books (perhaps that I have not read) that deserve a look to make the list?