It’s hard to imagine anyone who wants to be King of Scotland after watching the newest film adaption of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Foggy and grey, the Scottish landscape becomes a vast battleground filled with blood, fire, dirt, and savagery.
Of course, what happens to MacBeth after he assumes the crown only makes the job less desirable. Michael Fassbender plays the fated and famed title character, fueled by a lust for power, then devoured by paranoia. Director Justin Kurzel, faithful to original, wants the viewer to feel the madness, as battles are anything but smooth and easy.
Gritty is too nice a word for this haunting, troubling vision of MacBeth. Blood spews on the open fields, and the fighting slows as we watch MacBeth pause and take note. When fog isn’t shrouding the warriors, it’s the burning of the forest, enveloping the screen in reds and oranges. In the background, sisters of varying ages stand watching, waiting; gone are witches in this version, but these clairvoyant women foresee MacBeth’s fate. How he interprets it however, sends him mad.
MacBeth stays true to the source material, which may be needed to be revisited for the full effect here. The intensity of both the visuals and the dialogue is such that it’s easy to get lost if you’re either not paying full attention to everything that is happening, or if you’re the least bit unfamiliar with the play. Almost overwhelming at times, MacBeth is masterfully-executed and featuring impressive performances by Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Lady MacBeth.
The ‘why’ of everything is left with Shakespeare and the written word, while the ‘how’ is what this adaption is really for. That is, the simple nature of the story is readily apparent, while the subtle nuances may be harder to grasp. A gift for lovers of the play, MacBeth is told through a grim, harsh prism, indeed full of madness, and some confusion.