Many film and TV adaptations of ‘Macbeth’ have disappointed me to the point where I have almost sworn to never watch it again. However, the 2015 Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel, is a beautifully crafted 113 minute artistic masterpiece, which at moments had me literally basking in awe. Starring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, this adaptation is gruesome, dark, and at times heart-wrenchingly sad. You’ll want to re-watch it as soon as the credits roll!
Just in case you have lived under a shell your whole life and have no idea about the story of ‘Macbeth’, here’s a quick summary: Macbeth is a valued soldier serving under the Scottish King Duncan, however, after a heroic battle he encounters three strange witches who prophesise that one day he shall be king. Eventually, through persuasion from his wife and his own ambition, he begins to plot the murder of the king.
“At times, I was almost moved to tears by Harris’s acting. As for the performance from Fassbender, his portrayal of the power hungry man is spot-on”
Unlike the disappointing Polanski version of 1971, which stayed so true to the play it became boring to watch, this version offers an intriguing interpretation. It takes the written play and moulds it into a suspenseful, exciting and fast-paced story. Every character seems to be well-rounded and developed, with Macduff (Sean Harris) being a particular standout. The fact that any secondary character could be so memorable implies the director’s perfect understanding that ‘Macbeth’ is supposed to be a tragedy, and at times, I was almost moved to tears by Harris’s acting. As for the performance from Fassbender, his portrayal of the power hungry man is spot-on, and at points we only need look at his eyes to see how crazy Macbeth is becoming.
The only drawbacks emerge from scenes containing the witches and those which contain Lady Macbeth. These are two groups of characters which are integral to the plot, as well as playing a crucial role in the fall of Macbeth. However, I was disappointed with the seeming lack of originality in choice of witches; the use of three plain women who only speak in monotonous tones made these scenes a little lack-lustre. The witches are supposed to be an overshadowing presence, but it hardly felt like they had any presence at all. As for Lady Macbeth herself, she just wasn’t evil enough. It is the scenes in the play where she viciously manipulates Macbeth that are the real turning points in pushing him towards regicide. However, in this version these vicious lines were delivered with almost no emotion, which really took away from the impact Lady Macbeth is supposed to have on her husband. These were definitely two characters that could have done with more development.
However, those two characters aside, the rest was fantastic. Scenes that involved any violence or battle were brutal and honest, down to the very last detail. Nothing was covered up, and this really gave the film a kick-ass feel. If you are easily affected by blood and gore, then maybe this won’t be the right adaptation for you. But for those of you who love the adrenaline of watching a great battle on film, Macbeth is the place to turn. Switching between shots of fast paced combat and slow motion butchery, even those who aren’t fans of Shakespeare would be hard-pressed to not enjoy these excellently choreographed and believable fight scenes.
Overall, Kurzel has bought us an emotive and raw interpretation, that doesn’t get bogged down in letting the Shakespearean language control the pace and action. Whether you are an ardent lover of the play or somebody who has never encountered it in their life, this film is definitely one to watch.