by Justin Kurzel
Till 22nd October 2015
Don’t be deceived by the sleek advertising campaign adorned with
the contemporary face of Michael Fassbender, 2015’s Macbeth is purely
for purists. Whether this is a film ignorant to its wider, modern audience
or indeed the wider, modern audience that is ignorant to a film and its
400-year-old source will depend entirely on the individual.
For this particular viewer, however, with his last encounter of Shakespeare
being a decade-old GCSE English class, the effect is akin to watching
a subtitle-less foreign language film, forced to engage with the plot
purely on the basis of characters’ actions, their facial expressions,
and the approximate three lines of dialogue that were personally decipherable.
It’s appreciative then that at times Macbeth is visually striking,
with artful cinematography and slick editing that contrasts intriguingly
with the traditionalism of its storytelling; a final act battle sequence,
drenched in a smoky red as swords clash with a savage ferocity, is a contender
for the most arresting image you’ll see at the cinema this year.
Meanwhile, Fassbender’s vacant-eyed snicker while he proclaims,
“full of scorpions, is my mind,” is a glimpse of something
truly special, as his and Marion Cottilard’s electrifying performances
prove exactly why they’re the most exciting actors of their generation.
At other times, however, there’s an apparent dreariness that permeates
the surrounding production. It’s perhaps director Justin Kurzel’s
attempt at reflecting the bleakness of the narrative, and Shakespeare’s
most resolutely evil character, but it’s an approach that ultimately
drains the spirit out of a story that should pulsate with the energy of
exploring the nature of humanity; a concept that demands a more bold and
theatrical direction for it to thrive.
This aspect, combined with the brutality of Macbeth’s continual
killings and their subsequent intense Shakespearean ramblings whilst underscored
by an unrelentingly dread-filled score, induce a rather arduous viewing
experience that invokes undesirable recollections of another sombre, Scottish-set
film, Jonathon Glazer’s Under The Skin.
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