It’s always interesting to see adaptations of Shakespeare’s work, especially taking into the thought that all of his work was written more that three centuries ago. There is no shortage of big screen adaptions all different in execution, character study, some faithful, and some taken with liberties. Director Justin Kurzel brings this new adaption with faithful dialogue and modern aesthetics.
From the stylistic opening credits in a crimson red font, it was clear that Kurzel’s Macbeth would be a visual feast for the eyes. Taking a very modern yet simplistic look, Macbeth delivers the most visual appealing wonders where every frame would be welcomed at an art show, wall, or desktop background.
Macbeth opens with the titular character (Michael Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) burying their deceased child, silhouetted by the ember red setting sun. Taking some liberties from Shakespeare’s play, we see Macbeth leading troops to one final battle in the civil war. Gearing up with armor and war paint, similar to that of Braveheart, the camera pans over as the horrors war has caused, countless dead including child soldiers. The battles lead to a beautiful yet bloody affair that paints the screen blood red and with images I have yet to see this year. The action is slowed down to view the emphases on the terror yet determination of both sides only to get hit by the grim reality as the action is ramped up to see that this is not fantasy but reality. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw is in a league of his own with Macbeth; only dreams can capture the magnificent staging shown here.
Winning the last bout, three witches confront Macbeth, who prophesies that he will be king and Banquo (Paddy Considine) will be the father of kings. The continuing story closely follows Shakespeare’s play, where the man who would be king goes mad.
Ultimately, Macbeth falls short aside from its visuals. While Macbeth at its core is an exciting and compelling story; death, betrayal, horror, greed, and envy, the dynamic between Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard is not present. Fassbinder is speaking and acting out these classic Shakespearian soliloquies but yet it does not rise to a level of passion he just mumbles lines but the saving grace, as pointed out before, is the imagery that tell more story than its characters.
Macbeth is a bloody story with many twists but all the characters on screen are autonomous and the love that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is seen but not felt through images nor words. It’s hard to be invested in characters you don’t care about. This may be as a result of a play being difficult to adapt to the big screen, but it has been done before, Roman Polanski’s adaption maybe the most well known and Orson Wells is vastly different but keeps the overall structure the same.
Macbeth, in this interpretation, plays out more of a man who is suffering from the paranoia of war, like a soldier returning from duty with PTSD. Lady Macbeth resembles its characteristic of a femme fatale lurking in the shadows pulling strings. There are ambitions that keep this Macbeth interesting, but will deter the public with its arthouse aspirations, even though its story is well known and big name actors attached. Macbeth goes after its previous adaptions but trips and falls onto its own sword.
Macbeth will be released on December 4, 2015.