have long debated just how many children Lady Macbeth had and lost, because
they don’t hand out tenure for nothing. Justin Kurzel’s new cinematic take on
the Scottish Play is willing to go on record positing one child, whose tragic
death will psychologically torment her and her noble husband unremittingly.
Kurzel also more fully embraces the blood and carnage of battle than politely
prestigious productions past in his vivid adaptation of Macbeth (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
might not recognize the scene of Macbeth, Thane of Glamis and Lady Macbeth
burning their young child on a funeral pyre, but from there on, it is business
as usual. However, Kurzel does not skimp on hack-and-slash action when Macbeth
and his faithful comrade Banquo vanquish the forces of the treasonous
Macdonwald. Just as the three witches promise, Macbeth is promoted to Thane
Cawdor following the traitor’s execution. That gives Lady Macbeth ideas about
the rest of the witches’ prophesy, particularly the part about Macbeth becoming
King of Scotland. However, they had an addendum hailing Banquo as the
forefather of future kings that somewhat vexes the childless Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth does indeed prompt her husband to commit murder, Kurzel’s
conception of the Scottish Play is remarkably forgiving of this often vilified noble
woman. Again, the explicit grief for her child humanizes her subsequent sins to
a considerable extent. On the other hand, Malcolm the heir apparent is
portrayed in unusually shallow and cowardly terms.
Michael Fassbender as Macbeth is so logically self-evident, it seems strange
nobody tried to do it sooner. He does not disappoint, completely committing to
Kurzel highly physical conception of the Thane. One look from him can make the
heather on the hills wilt. In contrast, Marion Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth is
unusually sensitive and guilt-ridden. Unlike memorably ferocious Lady Macbeths
(Rosanne Ma in the Pan Asian Rep’s Shogun Macbeth is still a favorite), she is almost delicate, which makes the
contrast between her and Macbeth all the more dramatic. Paddy Considine and
Sean Harris also add considerable grit and heft as Banquo and Macduff,
cinematographer Adam Arkapaw work is just as bold, deliberately evoking blood
and fire with his vivid color palette, while (brother) Jed Kurzel’s minimalist
score gives the film a contemporary vibe. Kurzel somewhat overindulges in
symbolic imagery with his over the top closing sequence, but that is a minor misstep.
In general, his fearlessness pays dividends.
the all the best Shakespearean films take some liberties with their source
material. Arguably, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood
remains the greatest cinematic Macbeth,
with its completely original but utterly iconic death scene. Kurzel’s Macbeth is a worthy follower in its
tradition. Like Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus,
Kurzel is very much in touch with the manly, action-driven side of Shakespeare,
while also ruthlessly plumbing the dark psychological depths of his flawed
characters. Highly recommended, Macbeth opens
this Friday (12/4) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: Macbeth, Marion Cotillard, Michael Fassbender, Paddy Considine, Shakespeare on film