Insanity, vanity, and wine, don’t always mix well.
Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) and Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) are married and, at one time, were at least happy. Now, after having lost a child, they are not – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want the same thing. Though Macbeth supports King Duncan (David Thewlis), Lady Macbeth still convinces that it is his time to take the crown and get rid of King Duncan while he still can. And get rid of King Duncan, is exactly what Macbeth does. This leads him and Lady Macbeth to become both King and Queen, where they are not only given each and everyone’s respect and adoration, but generally seen as people you should not try to double-cross. That’s why, when it becomes clear that Macbeth himself is going a bit mad and losing control of, not just his mind, but his empire, people start trying to bail and escape from Macbeth’s rule. Obviously, Macbeth is not too happy about this and decides to use his power to take matters into his own hands. Eventually, people start to get so tired and angry with Macbeth’s psychotic tendencies, that they start to get together and form something of a rebel alliance – one that will ultimately prove to be Macbeth’s undoing.
Among many other things, of course.
So yeah, it’s very hard to make a Shakespeare adaptation nowadays without making it seem like you’re just taking up your time to make a movie and because, well, you could. In a way, everything’s been done by now and unless you have a truly unique, interesting way of telling the story, your adaptation won’t do much except just make people actually want to go back and read the original-text. Because as everybody knows, people love Shakespeare, and if there’s something they love more, it’s a good Shakespeare adaptation.
Something that Macbeth sort of is and sort of isn’t, but that’s sort of the point.
What director Justin Kurzel seems to be doing here is give everyone that kind of Macbeth adaptation they expected to see, yet, at the same time, still find ways to make it even more bleak and unrelenting than ever before. Clearly, for anyone who has ever read the original story or seen other adaptations, it’s clear that this is a pretty hard task, but it’s one that Kurzel seems perfectly equipped with handling. Kurzel’s last film, the Snowtown Murders, was basically an adaptation of Macbeth, but not really; while it was clearly based on a true story that’s as grim as anything in here, it’s also, at the same time, a tale about how evil can take over one man to make him do terribly inhumane things that no sane man in his right man would ever think of committing.
And with the story of Macbeth, that’s exactly what Shakespeare is trying to say. While he was obviously a bit more subtle with it than I may be making it out to be, that idea of one man losing all control of his mind, while still clearly in power over a large group of people, is still here and obvious in every shot, frame and scene. While it may get a tad repetitive with Fassbender just constantly acting out like a nut case and just making everyone around him feel genuinely terrified and scared for their lives, Fassbender’s still good enough that it’s easy to get past. Though this isn’t his best work we’ve seen him do this year, it’s still hard to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on the screen as he commands just about every scene.
Marion Cotillard does the same, however, her role is a whole heck of a lot more subtle than Fassbender’s.
For one, everything she’s thinking or feeling, at any given moment, is displayed on those huge, bright eyes of her. Cotillard is known for giving these kinds of small, subtle performances where you have an inkling of how she’s feeling just by looking at her beautiful face, but here, it especially works because you know that, deep down inside, she’s the heart and soul of this story. It’s a pretty dark heart and soul, but a heart and soul nonetheless, which is why it’s great to get the scenes with her when it’s just her trying to calm her hubby down, or at least try and make sense of his madness.
As for the rest of Macbeth, it’s, as expected, some very gut-wrenching and disturbing stuff, most of which, is actually beautiful to watch. Kurzel layers his film with a certain code of orange that’s not just interesting, but occasionally, distracting; there’s so many shots here of beauty that, really, it seems like overkill and almost as if the ones behind this movie knew exactly that they were making something beautiful and had to tell the whole world about it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the film for trying to look good, but there was a small feeling that, almost every time some pretty shot was seen on the screen, that those behind the camera were just absolutely pleased with themselves.
Nothing wrong with liking what you’ve done, but you know, relax a little bit.
Instead, what Kurzel does is just tell the story, as it was, in some ways, originally presented. While there’s certain lines and/or scenes that are missing, the general idea is that Kurzel’s going to keep the native tongue and try his hardest to make us roll along with it. Because of this, the movie can sometimes be a bit difficult to read into or understand, but because the performances are so good from just about everyone, they help spell certain things out. And then, after awhile, it’s easy to just remember that, eventually, every scene is going to lead into someone or something getting stabbed, slice, or killed in a disgusting, disheartening way.
Just how Shakespeare liked it, clearly.
Consensus: The performances from Fassbender and Cotillard are so good in Macbeth, that they make it easy to get through some of the more confusing parts of it, as well as see more than just a bunch of blood, gore and violence, which ultimately, this story can just be all about.
6.5 / 10