Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is beautiful but bleak and in parts very oppressive. With missing plot details and an incredibly vulnerable Lady Macbeth, the film relies perhaps a little too heavily on visuals to keep the audience engaged.
Macbeth, of course, is the story of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire. A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of literature’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition set in war torn Scotland. The plot is of a high ranking officer who is told by a supernatural force that he will be once King, which becomes reality and then the King becomes a tyrant. In Shakespeare’s play, Lady MacBeth is equally powerfully ambitious and pushes the King when he is filled with doubt and uncertainty, even when eventually things crumble around him.
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cottilard both give exceptional performances despite the films lean plot; Fassbender seems made for the role of Macbeth, his brooding soliloquys giving unique insight into this blood crazed man’s life. Cottilard on the other hand, displays rarely seen aspects of Lady Macbeth’s character.
Sadly, Lady Macbeth is no longer the driving force behind Macbeth’s deeds and the film suffers as a result. I believe the chance to create a commanding and dominant female lead was a missed opportunity on the filmmaker’s part.
Bookended by staggering battle sequences, and some wonderful shots of the Highlands, all serve to make what comes between seem rather dull and lifeless at times. The atmospheric splendour, illustrates a heavily abridged version of Shakespeare’s masterpiece.
What perhaps is missing in this film is an ability to bring into the screen the raw human emotion that makes the play so great and universal, instead the film invests in rather visceral aesthetic and shots that seem to remind one of the 300 film, rather than develop more fully the characters.