‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know.’ – Macbeth I. 7
Three women in dark cloth with small children on a field covered in fog. The landscape is misty, the mountains loom dangerously in the distance. There’s blood on the battlefield. The warrior takes a final breath before he separates his enemy’s head from the rest of his body. The war is over. At least that’s what the King of England believes when he hears the news of Macbeth having killed the traitor Macdonwald. A bloody deed. The deed that sets in motion the wheels of fate and destiny of a man full of ambition, violence and fear. A prophecy becomes reality.
Macbeth, since its premiere in Elizabethan times, has proven to be a timeless story of a man’s physical and psychological destruction.
Justin Kurzel chose to adapt this classical play once more for the big screen (however only two cinemas show the original version in Hamburg). The leitmotif is red. Red is the sky, the intermission shot, the fire in the woods. Red is the blood on the victims, on the dagger, on the King, on Lady Macbeth, on Macbeth. Blood is everywhere. Whereas Shakespeare hints at battle scenes and although there are scenes where there’s blood in the play, Kurzel’s live action adaptation takes it a step further and turns Macbeth into a bloody and brutal story of a war hero that turns mad in his pursuit of power.
He, Macbeth, played by Michael Fassbender, is joined in this psychological deterioration by his wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard). Initially, she is the one to pressure Macbeth into killing the King but then later realizes her actions caused her husband to become a madman she cannot control any longer. Meanwhile Macbeth takes care of the three women’s prophecy: He wants to kill his former friend-turned-enemy Banquo and his son, who is thought to be the root for the next line of kings and thus not only Macbeth’s successor but also his rival. His men fail to murder Banquo’s son and Macbeth turns even more wary of this looming danger, fearing to lose his already insecure hold of the crown. Hence he goes on murdering all those that look suspicious to him. Being no longer able to handle her emotional distress following these wild killings Lady Macbeth commits suicide.
And just like Macbeth knew he had to kill King Duncan in his sleep, he knows when his time has come and the last part of the prophecy comes true: He can only die from a man not born of woman. (In Shakespearean times a Cesarian birth was still something quite spectacular.)
Kurzel’s Macbeth stays very close to the original, the adaptation uses Shakespeare’s Modern English words, syllable for syllable. The action, the language, the music, the scenery, the costumes, the actors’ performances, all these elements add their pinch of movie magic to turn this version of Macbeth into an epic testament to Shakespeare’s creative, visual and verbal genius. Slow-motion and still shots add to the dramatic suspense and give the movie something of a picture-perfect vibe. Whether you are a Shakespeare lover or not, Kurzel’s Macbeth doth meet all the expectations a movie goer can have.
Maria was listening to the sound of ravens outside of her window while writing this review.