Aussie director’s take on Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, acting well worth seeing
Macbeth, with Michael Fassbender,
Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine,
Sean Harris, David Thewlis.
Directed by Justin Kurzel. 4/5
WITH Roman Polanski’s definitive screen version now 45 years old, Macbeth was bound for a contemporary remake that remains loyal to the original setting and Shakespearean dialogue.
Little-known Australian director Justin Kurzel has done a brilliant job with a talented cast. Worthy of note is all the actors’ Scot tish accents, adding to the authenticity of the setting.
Even German actor Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) and Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth), who is French, did admirably well adopting a Scots brogue.
Films with Shakespearean dialogue can seem painfully stilted and tedious (like Titus), but Kurzel’s Macbeth moves along at a brisk pace at one hour 42 minutes.
In some ways it feels abbreviated, while still being faithful to the text. All the familiar encounters, conversations and soliloquies are there, from the prophecies of the three witches about Macbeth’s rise to the throne, to his plotting and scheming with his wife, his visions – “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” and Lady Macbeth’s guilt – “Out, damned spot!”
Like Polanski’s 1971 version, this portrayal is also brutal and bloody in its battle scenes, though the dreadful fate of Macduff’s (Sean Harris) wife and children is mercifully left to the imagination.
Fassbender is a handsome, seemingly invincible Macbeth – heroic at first, but who quickly falls victim to his own ambitions, prompted by his wife’s goading. Once his first crime is committed, it becomes easier to commit the next, increasingly without regret, save for the passing guilt of seeing Banquo’s (Paddy Considine) ghost in the king’s dining hall.
This Macbeth elicits no sympathy.
You wish no escape for him – you want him to face justice. And it is apt that it comes at the hands of grieving Macduff, portrayed as a scarred and unattractive man, “from his m ot h e r ’s womb untimely ripped”.
The way the director portrays how Great Birnam wood comes to high Dunsinane Hill is a novel departure, but works well. There are no special effects for the witches’ predictions and even Banquo’s ghost looks quite human. It’s all very gritty and realistic. Well worth seeing.