Macbeth (2015)

by | Dec 5, 2015 | 0 comments

A Trimmed Play that Shines in the Action and Non-Speaking Scenes

Shakespeare has always fascinated Hollywood, but rarely has the latter been able to do him honor. Yes we have some notable adaptations from some of the best directors in Hollywood: Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Kenneth Brannagh, Baz Luhrman, etc. Some have tried to modernize the plays and even add a surprise spin to it (Julius Caesar with African tribes, Macbeth in Nazi Germany). However, many other adaptations from the English playwright have been bland and boring, and they have faded from memory, even if they are much more numerous than their successful counterparts.

The latest adaptation of Macbeth takes on the source material in very literal terms. Director Justin Kurzel decides to set it in medieval Scotland, and doesn’t twist the storyline in any unnatural way. The story is one that is all too familiar to us, the noble Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is defeating an army of rebels against King Duncan (David Thewlis), after proving victorious Macbeth encounters three witches which tell him that he will be king of Scotland. When Macbeth returns to camp and confesses what the witches have told him to his wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), she tries to convince her husband to murder the king and take the crown.

Kurzel takes a noble swing at the iconic play. He tries to cut down the extensive dialogue, in a probable attempt to appease more mainstream audiences, but herein is the great mistake. Kurzel left some original Shakespeare lines isolated and alone, so that the actual script had no rhythm in terms of dialogue, and all poetry was lost. This caused a domino effect since it greatly affected the actors. Fassbender is a fabulous actor, but he has not yet proven himself on the stage, and here we see him stumble through the genre and his own lines. Most of the time Fassbender doesn’t know how to position himself onscreen in order to deliver his lines, something that makes you question if he even knows what he’s saying, in fact he only really made himself heard when Macbeth began going mad, and so it didn’t matter that he knew what he was spurting. This is the case with most of the cast, but there are exceptions: Marion Cotillard, who is fabulous and cold as Lady Macbeth, and Sean Harris, who plays the noble Thane MacDuff. The third problem that is rooted from trimming is that the story is lost. The motivations and progression of Macbeth’s character seems unnatural and out of nowhere, not only that but the film itself becomes long and dragging because since the actors don’t know what they are saying, neither do you.

However, this film does have strong points, and they prove to be very strong indeed. Kurzel really lives and relishes the violent scenes and he takes a certain intensity to it that might wow some people, but might utterly horrify others. He might abuse of the slow motion in his battle sequences, but they prove to be the most realistic and jarring scenes from the film. Then there is in the technical work; I especially liked both the sound and cinematography. The shots of riders across the Scottish highlands were breathtaking, and the final battle scene all under a fiery red glare adds to the gore and fury of battle. As for the sound each stab and sword clash proved to be startling, it carried such impact that it actually felt real; you flinched every time someone was stabbed.

But in the end, as I’ve mentioned before in other reviews, technical successes alone cannot hold a film together. There was a big mistake that took too much a toll on the cast and story. However, I did see signs of hope, so I will look forward to seeing the next time that Kurzel, Fassbender, and Cotillard team up together for Assassin’s Creed.

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 65% 65%

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What is your favorite Shakespeare adaptation? Let me know in the comments section.

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