Michael Fassbender gives a formidable performance in Justin Kurzel’s awe-inspiring interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. His characterisation of the tragic anti-hero delves into the psychology of a man fractured by the ravages of war, and the loss of at least one of his children. Having murdered King Duncan and taken his place as ruler of Scotland, Macbeth becomes increasingly unhinged, plagued by guilt and paranoia.
Contrary to her notoriously manipulative and power-hungry reputation, Lady Macbeth is imbued with a sense of humanity and fragility by Marion Cotillard, making her an unusually sympathetic incarnation of the character. As a French actress, Cotillard demonstrates great courage in the undertaking of this iconic role, and succeeds with an eloquent and stirring testament to her talent. Her voice is coloured by a barely perceptible accent, which enriches her character with the notion of a rich back story.
In all other cases, thick Scottish accents and gravelly tones reign, and lend The Bard’s meticulously structured language a naturalistic feel, enhancing the gritty nature of the film, and imbuing it with an air of authenticity.
However, despite the scrupulous attention given to language (this is Shakespeare, after all), Kurzel expresses a particular fascination for the characters’ relationship with their natural surroundings. The vast and majestic Scottish landscape plays a defining role in the film, with its intimidating immensity emphasising the fallibility of those who inhabit it, and enhancing the intimacy between the characters themselves.
Kurzel’s Macbeth is both an intensely emotional and fiercely physical film. In adapting the play for the screen, the director makes the most of the opportunities offered by cinematography to incorporate the story’s battle scenes (which in Shakespeare usually take place offstage). These violent, visceral sequences are graphic and unsettling, but especially striking for their haunting, ghostly aesthetic. Perpetually smeared in either blood, dirt, or warpaint, their faces decorated with countless battle scars, Macbeth’s warriors make for a fearsome and grizzly sight.
Macbeth is released nationwide on 2nd October 2015.
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