Macbeth (2015) is the latest reboot in the long-running Shakespeare saga, one of the most successful series of all time (behind Bond, but above Harry Potter when adjusted for inflation).
In traditionalist fashion, German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender plays the Scottish warrior, while French actress Marion Cotillard plays his English-sounding wife, in this adaptation directed by Australian Justin Kurzel.
After three strange witches (the most reliable of informants) tell Macbeth he shall be king, Macbeth doesn’t wait around. Pushed on by his wife, he hatches a plan to kill the current king and take the throne for himself.
Macbeth (2015) will be naturally compared to Braveheart (Warriors + Scotland = Braveheart) but in fact it’s more of a Valhalla Rising rip-off. From the experimental editing to the red-sky cinematography, Macbeth (2015) is banking on the fact that pretty much nobody has seen Valhalla Rising. And no one has.
For the first forty minutes, Kurtzel lets his camera do most of the talking, and for a moment it looks like the best Macbeth ever put on screen. It plays as a dreamlike psychological thriller, bolstered by solid performance all round.
And then it loses it nerve, reverting back to the text. You can’t do a Shakespeare movie without lots of the Shakespeare dialogue, can you? This reverence for Shakespeare is the film’s downfall, and it soon becomes a more standardized production.
Which brings us to the films main problem. Shakespeare is hard enough to understand when you have the words right in front of you, but when they are shrouded in the thick fog of Scottish accents and ambiguous acting, they’re nigh on impossible to comprehend.
This isn’t aided by a fundamental misunderstanding of the some of the play’s best speeches. Macbeth’s ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,’ soliloquy is bafflingly presented, to a point where the words mean nothing and the only reaction can be ‘… What?’
Fassbender holds his own, and the visuals – although not original – are beautiful. Also, it’s nice to see all the of-stage antics, and the film contains more gore than most horrors. It’s a shame that it bottles it toward the end, but Macbeth (2015) is nevertheless an impressive interpretation.
Now, if only I could understand what they were saying…
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