MACBETH

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That teaser is better than any poster.

I’m too excited about this movie to write a normal intro, i’ve tried to a few times and honestly the only thing i can say is that this is more or less the version of Macbeth that i imagined, wanted to see, and wanted to make since i first read it in high school. You reading this need to see this film, it is a travesty that it was ignored by the Oscars completely, however considering the Oscar’s have also nominated films like Norbit i say that not getting a nomination is proof of its quality.

 

THE GOOD

There’s so much good in this movie it’s hard to pick something to bring up. So let’s start with the title character to solve this conundrum. Michael Fassbender is great, and when i say great i mean incredible. Fassbender in many roles is so intense an actor and presence i find he can become uncomfortable to watch this intensity aids him here, as his Macbeth is a man consumed with a paranoia, blood lust, and an overwhelming guilt so deep that it removes any semblance of sanity from his actions. His range of emotions in any number of scenes is an incredible sight, jumping from guilt to madness and back again to grief many times.

Fassbender’s performance alone would be reason enough to see the movie, however Marion Collitard’s Lady Macbeth is equally as compelling and enrapturing to watch. Her opening soliloquy is presented with a deeply foreboding atmosphere and her whispered reading of the dialog is filled with such a delicately intense malice that it was almost frightening to watch. Her performance thankfully is coupled with the most compelling character arc that i’ve seen for the character.

Indeed Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s cycle of insanity and guilt feed off of one another, and their two performances are perfectly complimentary in tone and action. With Lady Macbeth seducing, enabling, and initially encouraging by her husband to kill King Duncan only to have Macbeth spurred on by his own paranoia spiral into territory she never imagined he would go to.

Again the performances alone would be worth a look, but it must be said that the film is an absolute triumpth of tone. It manages to create and sustain a sense of foreboding that is so oppressive it is almost overwhelming to me as a viewer. The same beautiful forests, landscapes, and cathedrals that have been used countless times in other films has been turned into a frigid, desolate, god forsaken land.

Lastly the various liberties taken with the text are by and large successful (with some exceptions that i will mention shortly), they are mostly fat trimming but some of them (like when Malcolm comes upon Macbeth after he has murdered his father) add welcome psychological layers and nuances to the film and characters.

 

THE BAD

To understand where i’m going with when describing the failings of the film it helps to watch this video:

 

Now, ask yourself which one of Stewart’s readings do you prefer, and which one do you want to see in a movie based on Shakespeare?

While i won’t say Macbeth lacks in intellect it certainly focuses on the emotion and passion that Shakespeare’s play has. The violence, the insanity, the foreboding are all cranked up to 11 in this new adaptation. What goes by the wayside in focusing on these these aspects is the diction and the brilliant lyricism Shakespeare wrote into his plays. This isn’t a “bad” thing though in this film at least, however it is a valid criticism of anything based on The Bard’s works.

I will also say that while the liberties taken with the text are interesting some of them had the affect of pulling me out the film. The most notable example is Macbeth’s vision of Banquo, i won’t go into length describing what i found jarring as the scene in the play was changed in order to provide a more logical reason for Macduff to leave Macbeth’s court and to emphasis the latter’s madness further. Both of which are well done here, that doesn’t stop it from being a bit jarring to my expectations based on the familiarity (and preference in this case) to the source material.

Also the ending while being visually stunning felt just a bit off; in the play and in Polanski’s version Macbeth’s actions seemed more futile, and his fall more inevitable and tragic. Having Macbeth abandoned by his own men, instead of leading them into battle as he had done before feels to me like a better way to have a man who has shut himself off from others by virtue of his insanity and paranoia meet his end.

 

THE UGLY

I stated in my review for Titus that:

“… it is through adaptation that shows just about any work can be brought to a new light…”

With the film makers choosing to focus on the darkest, ugliest, and violent aspects of Macbeth we now have one of its best onscreen adaptations to date. It is so good i doubt a similar direction will be able to produce a work as compelling.

The bottom line is if you like incredible performances, incredible cinematography, masterful use of tone, and can appreciate film as an art form you should watch Macbeth.

 

4.5 stars

OUT OF FIVE

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