Macbeth Review – A stunning adaptation of a Shakespeare classic

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Macbeth is one of many Shakespeare plays I’ve yet to read or watch. My literary days are quite possibly retiring themselves quite early. I’ve seen Gnomeo and Juliet, which was about as fun as nailing your hand to a dart board. Still, when it comes to successful Shakespeare adaptations, they can be quite alright. 10 Things I Hate About You was awkwardly bearable, however forgettable it may be. Hollywood adaptations of Shakespeare in general have been rather poor, or change the formula so much that it may as well be its own movie. Thankfully though, the Fassbender led Macbeth is a rising triumph of literary adaptations.

Beautiful, lavish and lengthy shots of battle take place rather consistently in the opening moments. Gritty, harsh and dark cinematography interlope the film, weaving the narrative into the violence in an extraordinarily seamless fashion. Without a word spoken, it’s clear to see Macbeth (Fassbender) in all of his assumed glory in these early moments. Although these great battles work wonders for the storytelling, it fails to provide consistent direction; the frequency of the camera cuts makes the action shaky and at times difficult to follow.

Fassbender’s performance as Macbeth is certainly a strong one. Visualised as a strong, almost barbarian like leader, he dominates much of the movie with frequent mise-en-scenes of varying struggles. His portrayal of Macbeth is as close as we’ll get to an accurate Hollywood portrayal, bolstered by an excellent supporting cast of legendary British actors. David Thewlis’ portrayal as Duncan brings about the best characteristics of a general Thewlis performance, and Paddy Considine looks tough enough to bring about a great supporting role as Banquo.

As the story progresses and Macbeth opens the more ruthless and scheming side, Fassbender adapts the screenplay aptly. His performance and brief monologues in the rough direction of the camera are really the only way to do this; so while it does break the pace somewhat, it seems almost necessary for this to happen.

Director Justin Kurzel should’ve brought some of this talent on display here into his poor adaptation of Assassin’s Creed. His focus and care to make sure the Shakespearian language is preserved is both his greatest feat and also my worst nightmare. I really should’ve paid more attention in school, because without subtitles this may as well have been a French film. Even with subtitles, Shakespeare’s affluent appreciation for the apostrophe is enough to confuse even moderate fans of the genre and of Shakespeare’s work. It’s a boat load of thou’s and thy’s and all of the language I thought Monty Python and the Holy Grail had ridiculed long ago.

Still, this is all masqueraded behind Kurzel’s brilliance. His work behind the camera is strong, blending components of classical stage productions and auteur directorial voice together in a rare fashion. I’ve not seen anyone adapt Shakespeare as well as this, so in that regard it’s a strong movie. But as a movie, and only as a movie, it fails to spark more than a moderate interest, even with some recognisable source material and actors throughout.

A definite strong bit of Shakespearian adaptation, with a strong argument to suggest this as an introduction to the immense work he produced. Macbeth certainly has its flaws in regard to lighting, performances and a handful of minor changes to the stage production, but for the most part it’s an excellent adaptation of a very interesting story. Gracefully capturing the nature of Macbeth, the Fassbender led project is a perfect introductory piece into the world of Shakespeare, albeit a difficult one to invest yourself in fully given its limitations.


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Macbeth
Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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