Written by Yosra Osman


Rubble, stubble, toil and trouble

Think Macbeth couldn’t be any bleaker? Wrong. Yosra Osman finds it oh-so bleak but oh-so watchable.

Macbeth battle sceneShakespeare. The most filmed author ever, in any language, with more than 400 TV and film adaptations of his works so far. They keep on coming, bigger and bolder, so it must be a challenge for any brave director who takes on the almighty task of adapting one of the Bard’s much-loved works.

Enter Justin Kurzel, a relatively fresh Australian director whose latest adaptation of Macbeth powers its way onto the big screen. It’s bold and it’s brilliant, but don’t expect it to be pleasant.

Less double, double, toil and trouble and more fair is foul and foul is fair, Kurzel’s Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, takes on one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, dealing with ambition, murder, destruction and tyranny in callous fashion.

“Set pieces are brutal and captivating, with large-scale battles and misty, gloomy settings to match the severe tone.”

Fun indeed, and don’t expect Kurzel to have lightened it up for your viewing pleasure. From the moment the film starts, with surging, violent string music and uninviting mountainous landscapes, you know you’re in for a bit of a bleak ride. Bleak, but quite astonishing.

It could easily be said that Macbeth doesn’t need to be any grimmer, but for the filmmakers this is the force behind Shakespeare’s play. It stays true to Shakespeare’s analysis of power and ambition, sin and guilt. Certain deviations from the text are added to distressing effect; in the beginning we are asked to sympathise with the Macbeths as they stand frozen at their child’s funeral, but in contrast Macbeth’s vindictive nature as king is exemplified by the cruel murder of a rival’s wife and children. It is a skilful adaptation, but it may be too oppressive for some.

Cotillard and FassbenderAt the centre of this film are some brilliant central performances from Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, very well cast as the tragic duo. Their performances are intense and magnetic, particularly in the second half when Macbeth hurls towards a cruel insanity and Lady Macbeth goes from controlling and merciless to guilt-ridden and dejected.

Assisted by some masterful cinematography from Adam Arkapaw, cinematically Macbeth is a triumph. Set pieces are brutal and captivating, with large-scale battles and misty, gloomy settings to match the severe tone. Indeed Macbeth may be dark, and it is not going to please everyone, but you get the feeling Kurzel did not make the film to adhere to the mainstream. It may be the visual opposite to something like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, but it is just as cinematically powerful, and there is plenty to admire.


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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions