movies: macbeth

macbeth - all hail
My connection (ie obsession) with versions of the Scottish play is well established at this point, so it's no surprise I was excited to see the version of Macbeth directed by South Australian director, Justin Kurzel.

And it's a stunning adaptation. Possibly the most beautiful I've seen.

Visually the combination of the Scottish locations (which I believe is the first time that there has been a movie version filmed on the Scottish moors), the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw, the production design, costumes and make-up all come together brilliantly.

Kurzel went with a very "realistic" approach, from the setting to the costumes to the set designs, it all feels historically appropriate. But settings like the final battle sequence are so spectacularly staged that they're just breathtaking.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular Thane of Glamis while Marion Cotillard is his lady... and they both do incredible work, even though I'm generally not a massive fan of Cotillard.

All the cast is great in fact, although I will say that the decision to use "authentic" Scottish brogue on top of the Shakespearean language did mean that even I who knows the play pretty much backwards and sideways couldn't always tell what they were saying.

There are generally three places where you make your mark as a director/writer with Macbeth... how you deal with the witches, the parts of the play you leave out, and the things you add visually because you can't add them verbally.

And this version got them all pretty spot on for the universe of the movie... the witches, beyond a little ritual scarification here and there, are very grounded in reality, as was everything else... although the decision to have essentially five characters instead of the regular three was a little odd, although one was a child and the other a baby. They also added in the ghost of a teenaged soldier who dies at the beginning, and assigned some of the lines from the witches to him, but that's easy enough to suggest that they conjure him.

I could complain a little about the parts they left out... but at this point I've seen versions with every possible combination of extractions... it's just that in this case, it's one of my favourite lines (and one that I have on the wall in my bedroom):
That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold.
What hath quenched them hath given me fire.
In fact a large amount of the things they removed from Macbeth/Lady M come from around the murder scene. Also gone is the "hubble bubble" sequence,I'm guessing because it felt too theatrical and over the top.

Other things to find themselves on the chopping block, as usual, were Duncan's younger son, the sequence between Malcolm and MacDuff about how terrible a king Malcolm would be, and the Lady MacDuff/Ross scene.

Those I can all live with them removing as they do have a tenancy to slow things down.

It's the things they added that were the most interesting... they add the battle that we only hear about at the beginning of the play, but then "show not tell" works much better in the movies. They also add in the "previous death of a child" that I've seen in a few versions which comes from one of Lady Macbeth's lines about knowing what it is to have a child suckle at her breast.

And the other thing is a sequence at the end that involves Banquo's son Fleance... given the fact that the witches tell Macbeth he will be king, but that Banquo will be father to a line of kings... but at the end of the play it's Malcolm who takes back the throne, not young Fleance, there's a cryptic little coda that may mean that Malcolm is going to now hunt down Fleance to secure his title.

It's definitely an interesting take, and not something that I've ever seen put together like that, and it was really, really good.

They also do a brilliant version of Birnam Wood "coming to" Dunsinane, and likewise not once I've seen depicted before.

This is a stunning version of the story, beautifully realised, brilliantly acted and a credit to everybody who was involved.

yani's rating: 5 ghostly daggers out of 5

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