D: Justin Kurzel. DP: Adam Arkapaw. W: Jacob Kosoff, Todd Louiso & Michael Lesslie. Starring: Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard/David Thewlis/Sean Harris/Jack Reynor/Paddy Considine/Elizabeth Debicki.
Macbeth or The Scottish Play as it is referred to in theatres is one of Shakespeare’s plays rarely adapted for the screen. This new version, directed by Australian Justin Kurzel, is a ravenously intense adaption that embraces all the cinematic elements and delivers.
Shooting in the UK including the Isle of Skye the film digs its hands into the landscape of Scotland. Vast countryside and oppressive rain and cold anchor the Macbeth couple in a community built on violence and death. Surrounded by children, the film emphasizes the barrenness of the couple who is attempting to reconnect while being reminded of their lack of a legacy. The kingship they conspire to create will not be passed on. A fascinating angle for the play, this Macbeth brings new depth and scope to a work over five hundred years old.
Across the board the actors use Scottish accents with the exception of Marion Cotillard whose French accent has a hint of English, but allows her Lady Macbeth to have an otherness about her. Simply in her image Cotillard appears to represent the clash between Christianity and Paganism the play grapples with. She appears robed like the Virgin Mary yet in other sequences looks more like a witch upon the heath. Macbeth, played by Michael Fassbender, and his lady have an estranged chemistry that is both lustful and complex. Fassbender’s Macbeth is a P.T.S.D. warrior here whose mad fits are deftly handled. Macbeth demands you to listen closely and never relax.
Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw relies on a few too many close ups between the couple. Although this builds intensity and intimacy it does not allow some of the verse to breathe. Yet fifteenth century Scotland looks as dirty, cold and exhausting as one might imagine. The mists seem to rise and bring the weird sisters out from the land. The landscape itself absorbs Macbeth and the bodies of his victims into its earth. A thrilling adaption, Macbeth leaves out the famous ‘double, double toil and trouble’ scene among others. But what is lost we gain in a beautiful film that begs a steady ear from its audience. I cannot wait to see what Kurzel does next, dare I ask “when shall we three meet again, in thunder, lighting or in rain?”