I’ll admit to having not seen many Shakespearean film adaptations, but two films which I have seen number among my favorites. Those two films are Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and Throne of Blood, which are not only magnificent renditions of their respective plays (“King Lear” and “Macbeth”) but are just superlative examples of filmmaking.
Justin Kurzel’s 2016 adaptation of the Bard’s “Macbeth” is an incredible cinematic experience. The performances across the board are stunning. Michael Fassbender, having already proven himself in such films as Hunger, Prometheus, and 12 Years a Slave, here cements himself as the might who might be the actor of our generation. He is incredible and vanishes into the role of the Scottish Lord. Marion Cotillard, as Lady Macbeth, shines and comes across as the perfect mixture of insanity and insecurity.
Mainly, however, Sean Harris as Macduff stood out the most in my viewing. The character of Macduff has always been my least favorite aspect of the play (which probably accounts for my love of Throne of Blood in which Kurosawa completely drops the Macduff role from the story), but here he seems to add actual weight to the story and helps drive the narrative. Suddenly, seeing this wonderful performance makes me realize the dramatic weight added to the story by the character of Macduff. In a lot of ways this viewing was a revelation in regards to one of my favorite pieces of literature.
But of all things in this film that stand out in my mind the cinematography overshadows them all. At times the movie looks like a silent film: monocolored and with no sound except the music. At other times the film would make Zack Snyder blush with its masterful use of slowmotion and just visual grit. Everything from the deep hues of the blue tinting in some films to the staggering reds and oranges of the climax: it’s all simply magnificent. This is one of the most beautifully photographed films in recent memory (possibly since Ang Lee’s Life of Pi) and will be a point of reference in my mind for the rest of my life. Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation of a beautiful looking film I will point them here.
I suppose, if I were pressed, the only thing I have to say against this film is that it can be difficult to follow. If one is not familiar with the play I suspect the story will be lost and misunderstood. Some of this is because of the subtleties of the language, the delivery of the language (it is spoken through extremely thick Scottish accents), and others because sometimes the dialogue needs some breathing room it isn’t granted. The film runs just shy of two hours and yet I wish it had a bit more space. Not more content mind you, just more space. The film needs more time, I think.
Either way, this is an incredible motion picture experience and deserves to be seen. I really wanted to see this in theaters but it never came close to my area. It finally became available on Netflix DVD so I grabbed it and I’m glad I did.
This movie is superb.