CAPSULE: Slow and uninspiring, Justin Kurzel's mutes all but Shakespeare's words to take away any thrill from this version of the Scottish play. Lighting that obscures more than it illuminates mutes even the strength of the Shakespeare's words. He cannot damage has good story, but he seems to be trying hard. Rating: low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10
In HENRY V Shakespeare, the great word-enthusiast, writes of a great battle won by clever use of words. In MACBETH he writes of a kingdom lost by because of the ambiguity of words.
I may stand alone in my tastes, but I like my Macbeths to be reasonably spectacular. They should offer my eye as much as they offer the ear. I want to see Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane with acres of moving foliage, not just a few sparks of a forest fire and the rest done with a red filter. The Weird Sisters should look like weird sisters. Nobody asks a performance of Macbeth to be spiritually uplifting, but one wants to see the witches to seem a little weird and threatening. You know, witches. That is simply not the style of this production. Battle scenes seem to be shot in a thick fog so we can make out only figures in the fog.
Now admittedly we are dealing with Shakespeare here. Most important are the words of the bard and the acting choices behind the delivery, but also the words were written for another time, 1606 to be precise. But a production of MACBETH that does not engage the viewer makes that production design decision at its own peril.
Justin Kurzel, till now probably best known for THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS, directs this new MACBETH from a screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso based on a stage play by some British guy. Certainly watching this version is a much better experience than sitting and reading the play without visuals. But Kurzel seems to be so afraid that he will compromise the play and pander to the audience by putting in too much visual excitement that instead he goes overboard toning the visuals down to the bare bones minimum. Battle scenes seem more like ad hoc gang fights than two big armies facing each other. And then the fighting is obscured from the viewer by a thick mist or fog. Then to re-create some of the missing excitement he uses tricks like slow motion and probably some digital tricks. The music also turns away from inspiring the viewer.
But for three familiar actors this film seems to have been done on a low budget. The actors I mentioned are Michael Fassbinder and Marion Cotillard as the Macbeths. Also there is David Thewlis as the unfortunate Duncan. But too many of what should be exciting scenes are so cloaked in fog so we cannot see the speaker's facial expression. The feel of the production can best be described as raw. The screenplay is abridged from the original play, but that is to be expected to bring this version down to feature length. This film is heavy into style and it was a style that will have selective appeal. But the story is strong enough to hold the audience captive with what is, as comes as no surprise, a good story. For that thank that British dude.
I rate MACBETH a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2884018/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/macbeth_2015/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper