All Hail Fassbender
Thanks to Transmission Film we got to see Justin Kurzel‘s adaptation of Macbeth before its national release. This is our review of the movie but as usual, no matter what we say we still recommend you see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
Australian director Justin Kurzel has taken a blood red approach and filter to the famous story of the Scottish General who would stop at nothing to be King. Imparting a few modern twists, but staying true to the era of the story and original Shakespearean language, the director of the 2011 thriller Snowtown has created a streamlined version of the classic while keeping the essence of the story the same.
Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), a heroic General in King Duncan’s army, encounters a group of witches who prophesise he will become Thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland. When the first premonition comes true, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), driven by ambition and power, persuades Macbeth to take the King’s life to fulfil the second prophesy and gain the power they both desire.
The modernisation of the story sees the infamous witches take on the form of vagrants and scavengers, identifiable by scars between their eyes which gives them an almost alien effect. Also present during Macbeth’s first encounter with the witches is his right-hand General Banquo (Paddy Considine). The witches also foretell Banquo’s son will rise to be King which creates suspicions between both men, as a newly created opening sequence of the film has shown the Macbeths have no heirs of their own.
Kurzel has a made a fantastic looking film, the production and scenery is breathtaking. The beautiful backdrop of Isle of Skye feels like an extra character and adds another depth of moodiness to the film. Bamburgh Castle and interiors of Ely Cathedral combine to create a stunning Scottish home for the new king. Director of Photography Adam Arkapaw, has done a fantastic job with the cinematography, though no surprise there as he was the man behind the camera of the phenomenal 11 minute single-shot from the first season of True Detective. The spectacular opening fight scene, reminiscent of Fassbender’s other battle film 300, really sets the film up visually.
The acting is also superb. Michael Fassbender is brilliant particularly as he begins to unravel on screen as ‘scorpions’ take over the mind of his title character. But this brilliance is almost expected of him, it would have been more surprising if he had not been anything but sublime; he even manages to make a borderline mullet look masculine. Marion Cotillard also oozes charm and talent as a French Lady Macbeth. This may seem a fairly large stray from the original storyline, though it would not have been uncommon of the times for a Scottish thane to have a French queen.
Paddy Considine holds his own with these fine leads as the moral and rightfully suspicious Banquo. Sean Harris is also predictably good, though surprisingly he is not a villain but in the important role of Macduff. It is easy to see why Shakespeare’s work is still held with such high-esteem with actors, even 400 years after his works where penned. The raw emotion of every scene and the long detailed soliloquies seem a test for an actor’s talent; if you can pull off Shakespeare you have more than made it.
With its many new creative touches, Macbeth is not a film where you can go and switch off for two hours. As a viewer you need to remain actively involved throughout to follow the Shakespearean language, and it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on old high-school notes on the play beforehand (even though this is a more simplified adaptation of the classic). There is also a touch of pretention to the film at times, such as the low moaning soundtrack that seems never-ending at some points, the cut-aways of Fassbender staring directly into the camera and the Paranormal Activity-style scenes of the king losing his mind in his private chambers. There will no doubt be just as many viewers who love these artistic touches though.
The film is also incredibly violent and cruel at times. Some viewers will undoubtly see similarities to Game of Thrones, particularly the death scene of Lady Macduff (Elizabeth Debicki); a death which is usually implied off-scene, sparing audiences and Lady Macbeth the horror but here acts as a catalyst for Lady Macbeth to finally succumb to guilt. This adaptation certainly won’t become a part of high-school curriculum.
Macbeth opens in Australian cinemas nationally on 1st October.