MACBETH 2015: Brutal, Beautiful Shakespeare

There’s an inherent quality you can assume when Shakespeare is the source material for a film, and the 2015 version of MACBETH is no exception.

The acting is top notch, as you might expect. Michael Fassbender takes the character on his back and does it justice. He seems very natural in the brutal battle scenes, sword in hand, but the emotional aspects of the performance were all the more impressive. The conflict he struggles through, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, determining what he aspires to and the lengths he’s willing to go to appease his wife whom he loves, we get to watch the beautiful spiral down into madness. When he speaks to Lady Macbeth, with a knife in his hand pointed at her, explaining himself through the growing madness, we see the change take hold.

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The Marion Cotillard incarnation of Lady Macbeth truly shows her sadness giving way to ambition, greed, madness, manipulation, cunning, regret and then ultimate depression. She was so powerful when she was convincing Macbeth to do her bidding, and then seeing how things moved far out of her control even as their lives changed for the better as their situation changes. Such a great display of range, it’s incredible.

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Perhaps the best part of the film is just how beautiful the cinematography is, mixed with the amazing filming locations. The visuals alone are enough to warrant a viewing of the film, so a tip of my hat to Adam Arkapaw.

One of the most vital portions of any telling of Macbeth is the portrayal of the three sister witches. Here, with the smoke of war and fog and the use of color just adds an element of the supernatural to it which I think works amazingly.

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The final battle between Macbeth and Macduff, with the woods ablaze in the background adding an orange tint to everything, and the smoke and embers blown by the wind make for one of the most beautiful battles I’ve ever seen on screen.

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That the ultimate prize is the throne of Scotland and its reigning king thinks himself to be almost immortal takes the stakes and makes the scene that much more epic.As he kneels on the battlefield with the battle fury having ended, the view of Macbeth is both a visual sigh of relief and a bittersweet look at a man whose fate was taken out of his own hands through manipulation and then madness.

Director Justin Kurzel clearly had a vision for how he wanted to present this film, and he executed on it exceptionally. His brilliant cast, phenomenal locations, and the visual aspects of the film all comes together to be something special. Anyone who watches this will inherently better understand the characters.

My rating: 85 out of 100

I’ll admit that the rating would probably be higher if I was better at understanding Shakespeare, because as I listen to the discussion about the film during a Q&A with Michael Fassbender, I realize that I clearly didn’t understand some of the aspects the film was trying to present. Because I had to watch the film with subtitles and try to study what was being said in a couple points, my enjoyment level went down, which I believe hurts a film in terms of its greatness.

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One response to “MACBETH 2015: Brutal, Beautiful Shakespeare

  1. Plenty of style to sort of make up for the fact that the rest of the film’s a bit hollow. Maybe that’s intended, I don’t know. Nice review.

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