Macbeth: Film Review

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I know William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a dark and depressing tragedy in itself, but Justin Kurzel’s version is even bleaker than I expected and it is a lot of hard work. However, it is all worth it due to the incredible performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

As we (should) know, Macbeth is about a duke in Scotland who receives a prophecy from three witches teaching him that he will become king so he conjures a plan with his wife (Cotillard) to kill King Duncan (David Thewlis) and take the throne for himself. He starts going mad, consumed by bloodlust and fear of being overthrown, so he kills those who pose a threat.

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I did Macbeth in school and I haven’t watched or read anything about it since, but I was amazed how much I remembered as the film went on, including specific passages. This substantially helped in understanding what the heck is going on as they speak in Shakespeare’s verse and some with quite mumbling, deep Scottish accents. So it is quite a challenge to decipher the actual words and then understand their meaning. I must admit, I did struggle at times and I even switched off during the longer speeches but at least I had a vague idea of what was happening!

For me, this is all about Fassbender’s performance. He is incredible as the psychotic Macbeth. You don’t get much light and shade from him (or anyone else), it is just bleak, but he is convincing as someone on the verge of losing his mind. However, I did feel like his mental decline happened quite suddenly and not gradually, as I always imagined. Cotillard is equally enchanting. She is so expressive without saying a word and I love the power play in their marriage. It is a shame she is the only one without a Scottish accent though. Fassbender clearly modelled his Scottish on his good friend James McAvoy – they sound EXACTLY the same. I must always praise supporting actors Paddy Considine, Sean Harris and Thewlis.

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This is pretty stylish and violent. The action largely takes place on a harsh, wintery battlefield in the Scottish moors and there are a lot of slo-mo fight shots that just look stunning. We get a lot of bloodshed and injury detail and the whole colour palette is stark, harsh and cold. The filming experience looks like it would have been bloody miserable!

This is all about the performance. I don’t know if another version of Macbeth is necessary as there have been so many and this doesn’t really add much. It is a slog and I expect only hardcore film/Fassbender fans or Shakespeare enthusiasts will bother with a trip to the cinema and that is understandable. It is not the most enjoyable night out, but I reckon it will end up being shown in schools soon enough.

In cinemas tomorrow 

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