DVD Review: Macbeth
I guess how are you going to play an adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous ‘Scottish play’ other than straight? Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth proves as dark and moody as you’d hope with a visual flair exceeding many others. This version retains the bard’s language, for the most part, and much of it is actually shot on location in Scotland with Scottish actors lending the production a contextual honesty, which contrasts nicely with its heightened visual style.
Kurzel’s focus here is on the psychological unravelling of Macbeth as portrayed in the face, voice, and body of the ever excellent Michael Fassbender. The lead’s journey of misled ambition from loyal and effective warlord to reviled traitor and feared madman is smartly staged if a little jagged feeling at points. Probably my biggest bugbear with the film is the patchy accents on the lead actors. The filmmakers fill out the minor parts with a good mix of Scottish players but all the major cast are non-Scots. Being Irish, Fassbender scrapes by with minimal jarring—as do Paddy Considine as Banquo and Sean Harris as Macduff, Englishmen both who arguably do a better job of managing the Scots accent than Fassbender—but it is (understandably) Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth who struggles most to convert her French accented English into something resembling a Scottish twang. And this is somewhat distracting. Her acting in other respects is mostly fine (I’ve not ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance) but she feels miscast in this piece, which is unfortunate.
The filmmakers go to town on the smoke and lighting effects to give the film a very stylized appeal, visually integrating the otherworldly aspects of the story—soothsaying witches with their prophetic pronouncements—which drive the plot forward. Despite the great cast and excellent production values something about the film didn’t quite gel for me. Perhaps it was a feeling that Kurzel could’ve made his fingerprints a little more apparent? It ends up feeling somewhat constrained, like it should have more bite but is being muzzled. This proviso in mind Kurzel’s iteration of Macbeth is still an enjoyably meaty retelling of Shakespeare’s tale of people losing themselves in a sea of self-betrayal and is definitely worth a look if Shakespeare (or Fassbender!) is your thing.
Rating: R16 Violence and offensive language.