MacBeth: An ode to Shakespeare

I have seen the horrors! What can be more horrific than seeing people doze off a third of the way into the film and many more lifeless, immovable bodies at the end. As the credits rolled, I watched and waited with amusement as no one left the theater. For the minority that enjoyed the film like I did, we were probably taken aback by it’s highly visual approach,relentless and unapologetic, that made it no less a great Shakespearean re-imagining. For the majority, ah…

Forget about it.

Save your tickets. All I can say is that people really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Come on! Did you think this was going to be Game Of Thrones: The Movie? If you love your Shakespeare, this is a must-watch.

MacBeth’s greatest aspect lie in its imagery. Red and bloodied hues fill the battlefield and slow-mo is the name of the game. Scenes of the three witches come to life in a haunting blur, like a living reverie, to prophesize a vision. One interesting difference which adds a different tone to MacBeth is that the three witches aren’t portrayed as strikingly evil like in the play. They don’t even look like they’re out to hurt you. So Justin Kurzel’s intentions is curious at first. Perhaps Kurzel tweaked the portrayal of the witches as a natural force of divination, maybe even a neutral entity, that fuels MacBeth’s ego and lust for power. In some sense, Kurzel has made MacBeth’s plight a pitiful one. Michael Fassbender’s character development goes through the full course of a man who starts out as driven but has increasingly been seduced to be the power-hungry egomaniac. Staying true to the play, Kurzel does a wonderful job of re-enacting the tumultuous period of Scotland’s past, giving birth to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), and putting their sinful desires and motivations on display with considerable thought.

Action in Justin Kurzel’s world is frame by frame and micro-second by micro-second. It is crimson. Kurzel literally brings to life the rage of the play that every fight scene is dramatized and layered upon each other. It is something so raw, so corporeal, like the blood and flesh that is won and lost. Kurzel captures the emotion of a fight like none other. However, this only works because Fassbender doesn’t let go of his character for a second. He is so involved in the character that Kurzel’s over-the-top art-house-esque battle sequences don’t look like a complete joke. Fassbender has completely internalized Macbeth; His ego and drive goes into full-blown neurosis that fits the over-the-top splashy style of Kurzel’s direction.

macbeth crimson war

Macbeth’s picture isn’t complete without the mysterious character who seduces him and has him come undone. Lady Macbeth portrayed by Marion Cotillard matches Fassbender’s Macbeth with similar intensity and passion. Her acting reminds me abit of Mal in Inception except that she’s upped the ante this time. She is uncompromising and deadly with her powers of seduction and does not fit the submissive archetype of females in olden days. The conception of her character is an interesting one given that MacBeth is already such a strong presence on screen. But it just goes to show with the right direction, equally charismatic characters can complement each other.

Kurzel’s film thrives on the dynamic duo and reinvents itself without losing the play’s essence. There’s a well-known point of discussion in the literary world that concerns the nature of MacBeth’s character and his tragic rise and fall. With emphasis on emotion and graphic imagery, Kurzel and his actors have smartly sidestepped the conundrum that would otherwise have made the film less powerful. As seen from Cotillard’s face of pure desperation and temptation and from Fassbender’s drastic turn to destruction, this is a film that cements the experience and leaves the interpretation to you.

Rating: 8.2/10







2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jay says:

    I’m so jealous!!! I love Cotillard and can’t wait to check this one out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Yes!! She’s super haunting in MacBeth, kind of like shakespeare femme fatale style haha.


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