MACBETH || 2015, UK / France / USA || Period Drama || Directed by – Justin Kurzel / Written by – Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie (based on the play by William Shakespeare) / Produced by – Jenny Borgars, Iain Canning, Olivier Courson, Laura Hastings-Smith, Danny Perkins, Rosa Romero, Tessa Ross, Emilie Sherman, Andrew Warren, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein / Music by – Jed Kurzel / Cinematography by – Adam Arkapaw / Editing by – Chris Dickens / Production design by – Fiona Crombie / Starring – Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis / Running time: 113 mins.
Justin Kurzel captured international attention with his powerful drama The Snowtown Murders, which was generally accepted as being remarkably “depressing”. It is no wonder hence that the director should have chosen the Scottish play for an adaptation, as that also is arguably the darkest of Shakespeare’s works. Macbeth is also often associated with the paranormal, due to its flirtation with more fantastic aspects, namely the pivotal role of the three witches, whose prophecies influence the turn of events that eventually lead the titular, brave and loyal Thane to become King through murderous, unholy deeds. But Kurzel’s Macbeth doesn’t show all this by flashy means – the weird sisters are very much part of the world in which the film is set, and as such there is no need to make them look any less organic than anything else that unfolds on the screen. In fact, the most stylized images in the film do not come from its supernatural moments, but rather from the battle and murder sequences, that are very gory and graphic, purposefully so given the fact that the film is meant to be heavily defined by a darkness and despair that is cohesive with the development of the character of Macbeth into a maddening frenzy.
The cohesive vision also depends upon a certain degree of stylisation for which the Adam Arkapaw is very commendable. The well calculated movements, the play on lights and shadows and also a natural veering towards more expressionistic routes with imagery of red skies and fires of hell that infuse Macbeth with a nighmarish outlook.
As with all adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, both on the big screen and on the stage, the acting is always very important, and one would presume, incredibly difficult. But the casting is absolutely excellent. Michael Fassbender confirms himself as one of the best actors of our generation with an intense turn. His emotions remain almost unreadable throughout and yet the development of his hopelessness is crystal clear. This understated manner of his performance is pivotal in revealing the character of Macbeth’s helplessness – it is as if he were autopiloted not only in his ambition, but also in his role as a figure moving by means of written prophecies. It also appears as if he were only liberated when putting on war paint and returning to the battle field, his natural habitat.
One of the most interesting aspects of the original story has always been his relationship with Lady Macbeth. In this film too, the interactions between the two characters are fascinating driving points of the plot. Marion Cotillard is excellent in her role refrains from chancing a Scottish accent, unlike all the other characters in the film, but this choice ironically is collaterally and possibly involuntarily victorious, as they alienate her character even more from the rest of the world surrounding the titular character. – 5/5