What should be a magnificent entry into the canon of Shakespeare films instead turns out be less matter and more art.
Justin Kurzel’s second major film (following the divisive and gory Snowtown) has a lot going for it in theory. It has a cast that would be the envy of most directors, a big budget, plus the added bonus of it being filmed in England and Scotland.
Shakespeare’s classic tale about a power-mad warrior who murders his way to the top with the help of his equally megalomaniacal wife is given a lavish treatment by Kurzel who, wisely, has decided to set his telling of this story in the country and time of the original play.
Kurzel’s eye for scenery and location is certainly a highlight in this film as are the costumes and the wonderfully eerie score by Jed Kurzel. It is hard to fault the look of the film which captures the feel of Scotland perfectly.
The cast are all decent enough in their roles – Michael Fassbaender is a magnetic Macbeth and Marion Cotillard a suitably demanding Lady Macbeth. David Thewlis makes a convincing Duncan; Sean Harris a troubled Macduff; Paddy Cosidine a troubled Banquo; and Jack Reynor a noble Malcolm – but they all suffer from a muddied vision of the work that lacks energy and focus with no drive towards the climax.
Kurzel has excised large portions of Shakespeare’s script, losing all the humour and nearly all the supernatural elements. Indeed the three witches are not so much witches but strange ladies in black with a penchant for telling the future. By removing these elements, he has lessened the dramatic impact of the story.
Much of the dialogue is muted and hushed with little to no music underneath. Even scenes like the death of Duncan and the final battle sequence are vastly underplayed, giving the audience no sense of dramatic tension throughout. The death of Lady Macbeth is almost fobbed off by all concerned. The end of the film doesn’t so much as arrive with a bang but with a whimper.
Too many of the set pieces and soliloquies are played with little excitement. One feels that with a more experienced hand at the helm, this film would rival some of the classic versions of this play committed to film.
This is a film that promises so much but unfortunately delivers very little.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 6