Macbeth

January 4, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

I must confess, at the start, that I do not know this play as well as some of Shakespeare’s. I have only read it once and seen two films versions (neither of them traditional) and have never seen it on stage. That makes it hard for me, from the outset, to judge this film for its interpretation of a classic play. However, that may be a good thing, as it means that I can only assess the film as a thing unto itself. To that end, I must say this was a spectacular, moody mess. Director Justin Kurzel, having directed only one full-length feature before (“The Snowtown Murders”), has turned his eye to one of the great masterpieces of literature. His inexperience does not leave him cowed, however, as he seems determined to make this story his own. And, visually he succeeds. As a work of visual art, wholly divorced from story, this film is stunning. Every single image on screen was arresting and beautiful. Painted in grand splashes of primary colors, this film felt phantasmagorical and almost comic-book like at times, reminding me of a Frank Miller – Zack Snyder hybrid. It was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous and rich and… emotionally inert. It felt like all the emotions in the film were on the screen and not in the scenes. The visuals gave the film a murky foreboding and sense of dread in every scene. As thought to match that somberness, the actors seemed to do little more than sulk and mumble through their lines. Often hidden almost entirely in shadows or covered in beards and face paint, it was frequently hard to tell who was who. Likewise, the lethargic stage directions left most of them largely stationary while giving their lines. This meant there were few visual cues for the audience to use to sort through the difficult Elizabethan English. As a result, much of what was happened seemed confusing. Clearly everyone was upset and they were clearly upset at Macbeth. He was doing some bad bad things. But nuance was lost and the beauty of the language was lost. Great lines were given without the sort of clear enunciation and staging to allow the audience to absorb them, leaving them lost in the wash of words against a beautiful backdrop. As such, the Scottish Play seemed less the point here than it was simply an opportunity to show off a particular vision. As arresting as that vision could be, I don’t know if it’s reason enough to see the film. Sullen, dark and with little to say; it would seem that Kurzel has created the newest edition to the canon: emo Macbeth.

 

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