One of Shakespeare’s darkest and bloodiest plays, Macbeth, a tragedy of political ambition and lust for power, can easily fail as a film. It has so much to live up to, from the brilliance of the original material, intended for the intimacy of a theatre’s stage, to the lingering shadow of previous film adaptations (including one by Orson Welles). So, it is satisfying surprise to see director Justin Kurzel, with only one feature behind his back, succeeding in creating a true masterpiece.
The opening scene relies on the sharp contrast between the quiet sadness of an infant’s burial and the violent uproar of a battle, setting the tone for a movie that consistently juxtaposes silent sufferings with loud cries, interrupting slow-motion fighting with sudden bloodshed. A bold editing choice, working splendidly when applied to the turbulent tragedy. Macbeth’s all-consuming ambition is constantly undermined by his inherent self-doubt, ultimately resulting in emotional turmoil: the clash between these two diametrically different sensations takes over everything in the film.
From the music to the cinematography, even in the costumes and the makeup, there is an underlying chaos, not of chaotic movement and confusion, but rather of the unbearable, intense inner struggles that take over a man incapable of living up to his own ambitions. When the protagonist’s feelings are so much bigger than the man himself, it can be easy for an actor to get lost somewhere in the midst of this ambitious film production. However, here the proud and unmovable figure of Michael Fassbender’s Scottish warrior is a force to behold. Hints of inner turmoil behind his eyes, a certain aplomb in the way he utters those famous monologues, Fassbender’s captivating performance is one for the ages.
Kurzel’s interpretation does not shy away from portraying what is only alluded to on the page and bravely develops the idea that the Macbeths’ failure to secure an heir and the loss of their child is their underlying motivation. This idea brings new depth the character of Lady Macbeth, brilliantly played by Marion Cotillard. The actress once again delivers a great performance, Shakespearean verse suiting her so well it’s easy to forget that’s not her first language. It is hard to find a fault in Kurzel’s Macbeth – a visual masterpiece, boasting great directing, stunning cinematography and unmatched performances.
Macbeth is released nationwide on 2nd October 2015.
Watch the trailer for Macbeth here: