Macbeth (UK/France/USA, 2015)

macbeth_ver5Directed by: Justin Kurzel. For me, even on paper, this was a no-brainer—Marion Cotillard and Fassybendy in a Macbeth adaptation? It didn’t hurt either that it was shot outdoors in the highlands in Scotland, some of my favourite landscape to see on film. And also it didn’t hurt that, once I started watching, I saw that some of my favourite British/Irish actors are in it—Paddy Considine doing a great job as the stoic Banquo, Sean Harris finally getting something to sink his teeth into as MacDuff, and my man David Thewlis in a brief but excellent little stint as King Duncan. And obviously Shakespeare has been done to death, but I’m always curious to see some new take, some adaptation that’s not afraid to be an adaptation, to take its own liberties and stamp a unique signature on the familiar source material. To me, this film was utterly unique, and I think a big part of it is the scale: it’s a very modest production, eschewing hundreds-large battle scenes to minor skirmishes with a few dozen that resembles a violent rugby match more than anything out of Braveheart, and it uses elaborate tents placed outdoors for the majority of the “interiors” instead of castles, using only one castle, towards the end. The scenes with the Wyrd Sisters isn’t in some exotic, swampy, third location, but just around, a random spot on the landscape, with some really effective smoke machines going. And the big battle scene at the end, the climax, has only two people—Macbeth and MacDuff—but the whole thing is bathed in that crazy red glow that looks like it was shot inside a volcano, and which in fact I have no idea how they achieved that. There’s really something there, something fascinating in the cinematography, how every shot looks like it’s not really of this world—a view of remote Scotland as a mysterious wilderness full of magick and witchcraft, at the end of the known world, as medieval eyes would have seen it—and the whole time it kept reminding me of the great Nicolas Winding Refn film Valhalla Rising. The whole time you’re watching, you’re getting this feeling of some otherworldliness, and it’s kind of creepy! I won’t spend a lot of time going on and on about the acting because, as if you couldn’t tell, it’s all amazing. I was a little let down that, amid the “new directions” they explored, it involved making Lady Macbeth less of a scheming, conniving murderess, and more of a tormented, guilt-ridden grieving mother. It would have been fun to see Marion sink her teeth into a gold old fashioned “Lady Macbeth”, but what she does here is amazing too. And Fassbender again shows us that he’s really on a roll, that he really knows how to pick good projects, and he really knows how draw us in.



2 responses to “Macbeth (UK/France/USA, 2015)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Assassin’s Creed (USA, 2016) | Offhand Reviews·

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