All Hail Macbeth
In this latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, Michael Fassbender plays the title role with Marion Cotillard alongside him as Lady Macbeth. The film follows Scottish army general Macbeth, a successful soldier in King Duncan’s army. After defeating the traitorous Thane of Cawdor in battle, three witches appear to Macbeth and fellow soldier Banquo. The witches present prophecies to the pair, telling Macbeth that he will become Thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland, with Banquo receiving a prophecy that his bloodline will bear kings. After meeting with King Duncan, Macbeth is given the title of Thane of Cawdor fulfilling the first part of the witches prophecy. Macbeth soon begins to harbour ambition to become King and with the unbridled support of his wife Lady Macbeth they conspire to kill King Duncan and take the throne. After the deed is done, the pair spiral into paranoia and madness over their positions and unleash a tyrannical reign upon Scotland.
Due to the popularity and success of the works of Shakespeare, there have been plenty of adaptations in film, TV and theatre work throughout the years. However this new version of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy has enacted Macbeth’s rise to power on it’s previous film adaptations. Mercilessly dispatching previous adaptations to place itself atop and crown itself the King of Macbeth films.
The film opens with the forces of Macbeth preparing for battle with the traitor Macdonwald, Thane of Cawdor. Set against a backdrop of bleak weather and beautiful Scottish country with powerful imagery of child soldiers coming to battle. The ensuing battle is grim and mucky, tainting all who take part. Battles such as this could easily have had as much of an impact mentally on Macbeth as his eventual descent into madness from guilt of his murderous actions.
From start to finish the film is visually scintillating, using a wide palette of subdued colours and picturesque settings which evokes a dark, brooding presence permeating in the background of Macbeth’s actions. Director Justin Kurzel is a new talent to keep your eyes on, with some superb direction and shot selection. He fills the film with stunning scenery, from the cold majestic rooms of Macbeth’s castle to the vivid fiery finale of Macbeth’s showdown with Macduff, Thane of Fife.
The climax is not the only thing on fire in Macbeth, the film is home to some of the most absolutely bewitching acting to grace an adaptation of Shakespeare. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard solidify their position as two of the best performers of their generation. Fassbender’s Macbeth is simply special and Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth is just as equally powerful. I would have liked to have seen a touch more of Paddy Consindine’s Banquo, but as it’s not his story I can not complain.
For as brilliant as this film is, it also poses a slight challenge. Those well versed in the story of Macbeth, and the writing of Shakespeare will be at home with this adaptation, but for the majority of modern film fans the use of the classic dialogue from page to screen will be tough to follow. Though I have studied Macbeth and know it’s story, I struggled time to time in deciphering centuries old language. This is by no means a critique of the film in any way, but it will most certainly act as a barrier in this film becoming the mainstream success it deserves. It will thrive independently, and plenty will rejoice in the use of old dialogue, but I’d recommend being familiar with the story of Macbeth before sitting down for this.
Overall this Macbeth is an exemplary take on a classic Shakespeare play. With impeccable acting, haunting visuals and a blast of genius directing it will go down as a modern classic. This is near flawless filmmaking and I can’t wait to see what Justin Kurzel gets up to next. All Hail Macbeth indeed!