Last year saw the release of the latest film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel. Gory, passion-driven and gripping, this film captures the vengeful air of Shakespeare’s Scotland well. The film was originally shown at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The audience thought it was so extraordinary that Macbeth received a ten minute-long standing ovation after its screening. Since then, it has received positive reviews across the board, and it has easily become one of my personal favorite Shakespeare adaptations.
The onscreen chemistry between Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) and Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth) is phenomenal. Fassbender as Macbeth lets his wife push him around while she convinces him to murder with an icy edge that would make a polar bear shiver. He plays the guilty and hesitant role well, as his body language reflects his psyche; from the start we understand that his intentions do not reflect the values he holds. Cotillard as Lady Macbeth is manipulative as ever as she goes to great lengths in order to get what she wants.
The locations used were Bamburgh Castle in Quiraing, Scotland and the Ely Cathedral in England. The film’s landscape shots are beautiful, creating a vast green aesthetic which fits the setting which Shakespeare created well. The scenes inside the castles were shot beautifully, as well; natural light and candles flood the sets, and the size of the structures — excessive, massive and grotesquely gorgeous — gives the film a drafty feeling. The eerie score also set the tone very well.
Even though reason suggests that every character would have a Scottish accent due to the play’s setting, producer Iain Canning allowed Cotillard to play Lady Macbeth with her native French accent. He claimed it added another layer of intrigue and complexity to her already complex character.
A few scenes in the film stuck out. The scene in which Macbeth is originally told of his prophecy is dreamlike and pastoral as he meets the three seers out in a field. In Lady Macbeth’s famous “out, damn spot!” scene, in particular, the director had an interesting choice in setting. As Lady Macbeth kneels in a church and tries to rid her hands of the blood spots that have plagued her as a result of her guilt, a window hangs above her head, cut out in the shape of a cross.
The subplot of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s dead child — which comprised the opening scene to this movie — was not derived from the source material. However, it effectively set the dark tone for the scenes of death to come. It almost gave viewers a chance to sympathize with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth:Without an heir, there is an urgency to secure their power. Lady Macbeth also talks about her “unsexing” as a woman and how cold she would have been to her children, if she had any. This scene’s addition definitely added to the plot and character development.
Overall, this adaptation is sure to satisfy all of Shakespeare’s fans and more general moviegoers alike. Macbeth is a well-made film, as it boldly tells a tale of revenge and guilt with an aesthetic just as rich. Macbeth will be screened at Cornell Cinema on April 9.
Marina Caitlin Watts is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].