William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been appropriated so many times in so many different ways, that I would be surprised if you didn’t already know the story of the man who was driven mad by ambition. After receiving a prophecy from a clan of witches that states he shall one day be king, Duke of Scotland Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) becomes hungry for the throne. Egged on by his wife (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth begins participating in all kinds of evil wrongdoings in order to gain power. But these actions are not without their consequences when Macbeth’s guilt becomes all-consuming, instigating his fast decent into madness.
In my opinion, Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays to appropriate, and while I’m sure there are some fine adaptations out there, this film just isn’t one of them. Australian director Justin Kurzel has already proven his worth with the intense drama Snowtown, but his new movie Macbeth is no where near this standard. It doesn’t pay homage to the great Shakespeare in the way that it should, instead butchering his poetic prose with near unintelligible mumbling, delivered by every character in the most melodramatically brooding way possible. If I hadn’t already known the story of Macbeth from studying it in high school, I honestly would have had no idea what was going on.
Long monologue after long monologue is performed with characters almost entirely still, staring directly into the camera or simply off into space, which make for a hugely uneventful viewing experience. However, this is then incongruously mixed with choppy editing of rather artsy cinematography and ultra-violent scenes of battle that look like they’ve been taken straight out of a video game. It is a discordant mish mash of styles that amount to a film with absolutely zero light and shade; it is constant darkness, hopelessness and tragedy.
While Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard made do with what they were given, there was very little dynamism in their performances, preventing viewers entirely from forming any kind of relationship with their characters. I just didn’t care what was going to happen to Lady Macbeth and her ambitious husband. I didn’t feel the pity that you’re supposed to feel for Macbeth when his life begins to crumble. I didn’t feel much of anything to be honest, except for boredom.
Put all of these factors together, and you get one very strange film. I am unsure as to how lovers of Shakespeare will react to this recent adaptation, but if I were going to give them any advice, it would be to give this one a miss.