Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Sean Harris
One of the telling lessons I have learned, slowly watching all the films that made their debut in Cannes, is that international audience cannot be trusted. You always hear of boo’s or long standing ovations (Macbeth received a 10 minute one), or even their winners are often suspect. Macbeth has been done, redone, remade and revived so many times, yet Australian director Justin Kurzel (clearly inspired by the popularity of Game of Thrones), transforms William Shakespeare’s work into a modern, Braveheart looking, epic bloodbath. For all its visionary quality, Kurzel’s fails to present the story in a way that might attract those who run from Shakespeare’s work or adaptations, in other words ticket buyers.
Following his victory in battle alongside Banquo (Considine), Macbeth Thane of Cawdor (Fassbender) is visited by four witches who prophesy his accession to the throne of Scotland. Their prediction infects his mind turning a triumphant warrior and loving husband into a murderous and maddening king when he ensures the crown is placed on his head. Elated at the news from the “weird women”, Lady Macbeth (Cotillard) assists in the murder of a king as she too craves power. Before the two can enjoy their new titles of King and Queen, Macbeth begins seeing the faces of those he betrayed and his madness becomes his confession as war is quickly upon his doorstep.
The focus and dedication to style that becomes the viewer’s only thing to enjoy.
Kurzel’s choice to keep the Shakespearian verse in the script will make subtitles a necessity. The film is aided by the intense performance of Fassbender (Steve Jobs, 12 Years a Slave). His veins are present on his forehead throughout the entire film as he delivers the lines with great intensity in the presence of other characters and in monologue. Kurzel’s changes quite a few elements for this adaptation, the number of witches, manners of death, even omitting a few characters. Like modern adaptions of Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina or Far From the Maddening Crowd, only the most vivid parts and actions scenes remain as most long dialogue heavy scenes are skipped or hurried. Unfortunately that doesn’t make this Macbeth more compelling than other versions.
It’s the focus and dedication to style that becomes the viewer’s only thing to enjoy. The dramatic makeup make the men seem like ancient warrior in the wrong costumes while Lady Macbeth has eye makeup spanning from the eyes across the nose. Lighting is extremely important in this production, various shades of darkness and blood red completely cover the final battle sequence. The trailer makes this film look like Kurzel might have applied a steady hand to a 300 type retelling of a classic story, but despite really creative elements Macbeth is still a chore to sit through.
Retaining the Shakespearian verse in this modernized bloody new vison prohibits it from reaching a must see status.