“All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter”
When three witches give Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) a prophecy that one day he will become King of Scotland, consumed by desire and manipulated into action by his wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), he brutally murders the reigning King Of Scotland Duncan, (David Thewlis) and takes the throne for himself. With the title”King Of Scotland”, comes unlimited power and that is too much power for one man to wield, as we see in the film. Alas, we see the good, the bad and the ugly and we see what too much wanton power can do to a man.
William Shakespeare is an often toxic purge to GCSE English Literature students all over Britain and the world because it uses lots of obsolete words, he loves writing in riddles and using metaphors as well. Well, continue thine hatred young thespians and stop thy clamorous whining. Why now? Why do another adaptation of this infamous play? I’d go as far to say that it’s his most famous, only losing to Romeo & Juliet. What original ideas does director, Justin Kurzel bring to the table? Justin brings a new ambience to the play. He has used modern filmmaking techniques but kept the original story and language. I must add that he is Australian. He filmed in Britain using British money so wasn’t confined by Hollywood in any way, shape or form. He got to make his movie without interference from studios and he delivered a glorious wonder. He uses modern technology sparingly and allows the landscapes of Britain to wow the audiences rather than using an abundance of special effects.
Not long into the film, there is a battle scene where Kurzel has utilized slow motion and time lapses to create suspense, with marvellous effect. He has executed this to the highest degree and he hasn’t overused the effect either. This is honed in on the emotions of the key characters, in this case it is Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth. He used it logically. Michael Bay please pay attention to this. You may learn something. Slow motion isn’t only there to make things look cool. Kurzel uses the closeup and the extreme closeup to perfection, focusing on the facial expressions of Macbeth and Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth.
Kurzel’s camera gives the audience a one-to-one with the husband and wife double act. Through the lens, we see their torment, his madness, her cunning, greed, gluttony, anxiety and all of their inner thoughts. They are a power couple with Lady Macbeth as the brains and Macbeth as brawn. Kurzel toys with our inner emotions. The emotions we didn’t even know where there until he unlocked them with his artistic direction of this film. He uses children as point-of-view characters in many cases. We see children’s perceptions of adults and how the children suffer because of the actions of adults. We even have a burning. Their innocence, their pureness and their naivety to life is what tugs at our heartstrings. Their pale frightened faces are etched in my mind even now, the day after I saw the film.
Fassbender’s performance as Macbeth is truly spellbinding. My eyes were glued to the screen with every word he spoke. Each line he spoke, he uttered with surety and especially the scenes when his character developed from a stable one into one that was going mad. His performance is poetic, emotional and mesmerizing to the point that it brought me to tears. This is his career best and I thought his performance as Edwin Epps in 12 Years A Slave was great. His depiction of Macbeth is a threshold above his performance in Steve McQueen’s epic slavery drama.
What I loved the most is the language. It is unchanged from the source material. Obviously, it’s been adapted from play to film but they have kept the Shakespearean language of old. The imagery, the obsolete language, the archaisms, the riddling text and its ilk. It’s a delight. They have conducted an ode back to the playwright and author, Shakespeare. Back to the stage where it was first performed. I thought Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal as Macbeth was unbeatable, but Fassbender has proven himself his equal in every way. Due to the lack of special effects, it was like watching a play in many ways. I only remembered it was a film when the battle scene took place but the acting and more or less everything else would have translated perfectly to the stage.
Cotillard’s performance as the leading lady is also to be highly commended. Despite being a manipulator, I found myself warming to her character. I sympathized with her plight more than I thought I would. I think Fassbender & Cotillard should be nominated next year by BAFTA and the Academy for Best Actor & Best Supporting Actress. Furthermore, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay are in order and Outstanding British Film (BAFTA). Paddy Considine (The Cornetto Trilogy) also brings an adequate amount of integrity and honor to Macbeth’s brother in arms, General Banquo while Sean Harris (The Borgias) plays the vengeful protagonist Macduff, and delivers another good performance and lastly, David Thewlis’ (Harry Potter) delivers a good cameo performance as King Duncan, being fresh off the set of Legend reeking havoc across the East End with The Kray Twins.
Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play and I am glad they have done it justice with flawless casting, stellar acting performances, storyline, direction, epic writing, character development and cinematography. Let us not forget the awesome musical score conducted by Justin Kurzel’s brother, Jed Kurzel. It’s punchy, glamorous and exciting. It draws you in. It has captured Shakespeare’s charm and it is an ode back to its author which can’t be said for many adaptations nowadays. The only discrepancy I have with this film is that there were four witches rather than three. Three women and a child…so three and half. It’s fast, furious and aggressive but unflinching and in your face. It knocks you unconscious from the sheer emotion from these great actors but also due to how flawed these characters truly are. Aye, there will be plenty more adaptations of Macbeth but I don’t think it will be bettered in the next thirty years. Fassbender & Branagh hold that mantle for the forseeable future.