Full Transcript of the MACBETH Review:
Though I saw the upcoming release Macbeth at the Middleburg Film Festival, it arrives just in time for the holidays and awards seasons in the US on December 4th. Nothing is so frustrating as a film or play that dances on the edge of greatness but yet fails miserably. Although Lady Macbeth herself says things without all remedy should be without regard…what’s done is done…
There is a perception that American Shakespeare lovers hold the playwright and his plays as sacrosanct. Certainly the average Brit has a far better working knowledge of his language than most in the US. That being said true fans of his works, Who know and celebrate them, exist the world over. As I number among them, Believe me when I say I’m always excited to see new, inventive, creative takes on his plays, both on stage and screen.
Director Justin Kurzel offers some impressive visual spectacle and unusual renditions of well known scenes in this Macbeth, for better or worse, clearly guiding his stars Michael Fassbender and Marian Cotillard (as the would-be King and his lady) in their performances. His love of the subject matter is clear. He is leveraging influences from Ingmar Bergman in scenes between actors, Akira Kurosawa for the battles and landscapes, and even Kenneth Anger for the (hopefully deliberately) heavy-handed religiosity. Sadly, Kurzel’s sophomore effort at a full length feature shows his weaknesses. He can’t simply use some of the world’s best directors’ styles or themes without self-brought cohesion. One would think the words from Shakespeare’s shortest yet arguably best tragedy would largely bring things together, but for this movie, the play’s dialogue is more eviscerated than Duncan’s innards. Gone are most if not all speeches or interactions between characters other than the two leads, even those that help build a case for both Macbeth and his Lady’s moral and emotional devolution, and their descent into insanity and escalating violence. No Lady Macduff, you may not speak beyond cries of “MURDER!” No, Macduff, you may not pine properly for the loss of your family, nor verbalize the rising fury that leads to his end. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps he was making room to showcase Macbeth and his Lady’s intensity. That might be true, where it not for them both (I assume being directed) to mumble their lines into the middle distance with a delivery almost exclusively effecting something between sotto voce and a vicious whisper. Fassbender and Cotillard are both exceptional actors capable of great work, but they are stymied here. Their Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are stripped of all connectivity to each other and the world, making their actions not so much tragic as merely sociopathic. Without showing their passionate ambition, or their rising guilt, the whole audience should rightly be inspired to push her off a cliff and cut his head off themselves.
What is tragic about Kurzel’s Macbeth is the money, time, and effort spent creating it instead of a filmed version of last year’s unforgettable performance with actual Scot James McAvoy, directed by Jamie Lloyd at Trafalgar Transformed.
I am rarely left so disappointed with a movie as when great actors follow an auteur and go rambling off the rails. Oh well, they all have tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.