The latest iteration of the classic Shakespearean tale of betrayal and revenge was visually stunning, but changes to the original play will not impress Shakespeare purists.
The film, directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, presents a much darker and grittier version of the story than other film and stage productions have in the past. Kurzel’s Macbeth is incredibly violent and not for the faint of heart, but the extreme violence is necessary to convey the savagery of the film’s characters.
Macbeth tells the story of the rise and fall of a medieval Scottish warlord falling victim to his own ambition and guilt.
Fassbender shines as Macbeth, portraying the character’s descent from dutiful stoicism to guilt-stricken madness with a crackling intensity that the rest of the cast fails to match. Although the script did her no favours, omitting or altering Lady Macbeth’s most memorable scenes from the play, Cotillard’s portrayal fell flat. The interaction between the leads fails to convey the power dynamic which drives the plot in Shakespeare’s original and the narrative suffers as a result.
The worst deviation from Shakespeare’s original play is the omission of several scenes prominently featuring Banquo, played by Paddy Considine, relegating him to a much smaller role than in the original.
The film has a relatively lean runtime, clocking in at only 113 minutes, making the cuts that much more unnecessary.
The real strength of the film is its visuals. From the slow motion battle scenes and misty highland vistas of the first act to the hellscape of a burning forest at the film’s climax each frame oozes dread better than the last. The use of natural light, soft focus and jump cuts are particularly impressive.
Macbeth is certainly worth a watch for those who are not too hung up on a film being faithful to the Shakespeare play it is based on. Overall, the film treads the line between lyrical art film and gritty drama doing neither perfectly but both well enough to ensure an enjoyable viewing experience.