Everyone remembers reading Shakespeare at school and each of us will have had varying experiences (mainly terrible experiences, right?). Men in tights speaking a language nobody understands whilst a teacher tells you that this is the most important literary work since, well, ever. However, presented in the right way Shakespeare can meet all of the hype and go beyond it. So when asking is that another Shakespeare adaptation I see before me? Don’t be afraid, be excited, because the answer is yes and it comes starring the delightful Michael Fassbender, Elizabeth Debicki and Marion Cotillard.
The difficulty of making a Shakespeare play into a film is that everybody already knows the story. Already the points of drama have been covered in classrooms and theatres across the country for centuries. We know who is going to die and who is going to betray whom. So in order to captivate a cinematic audience a Shakespeare film must be vibrant, well shot and exciting. From the haunting battle at the start to the landscape shots of Scotland at the end, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is just that. Throughout the movie there is an uneasy relationship with space and time that is present throughout the two hours. It is a film that keeps in the past but manages to stay modern at the same time. This is helped by the witches’ omnipotent figures showing up when and where they are needed, guiding the plot of the movie.
The most impressive part of Macbeth, aside from the performances, is how aesthetically pleasing the film is. If it was not for all the bloodshed then it would certainly be a positive infomercial for Visit Scotland. The mountainous beauty of the North sulks in the background of each scene creating and expressing the tension and unease that shadows the piece. From Macbeth’s relatively noble beginnings to his decent into madness, the picture guides us seamlessly through a word of ambition, betrayal and death.
There is one fatal flaw of Macbeth though; the lack of Lady Macbeth. Whilst it is important to throw a new light on a retold story, downplaying the aforementioned character was a large mistake. Lady Macbeth should be at the heart of the piece, in the engine room of Macbeth’s decision making. However, in the movie she plays a slightly lesser role. Macbeth himself is a character who can often be found looking off into the distance, suffering from major post-traumatic stress and it is at these times that the screen screams out for his partner’s presence.
Overall, this is a movie with great ambition; Macbeth shows that Shakespeare can truly be slick, stylish and interesting. The big screen gives the story a new gravitas and despite its setting it propels it towards the modern day. This new offering is not ‘double double toil and trouble’ but rather an exciting and fresh look at a story that most people will already know.