From the first to the last shot Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is a spellbinding, visceral piece of cinema. This is a beautifully grim film from the sparse Scottish landscape, to the performances from the two leads, Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as his wife. Fassbender’s Macbeth is a caged tiger; the battle scenes at the beginning and conclusion of the film show him in his element. Often in any Shakespeare adaptation the urge to overplay every emotion is too strong, but Fassbender makes his madness, lust for power and penchant for violence apparent without becoming a caricature of Macbeth.
Cotillard is a vastly different Lady Macbeth than any I’ve encountered before. Lady Macbeth is often portrayed as being the main agitator of her gullible husband. Of course she is still scheming here, but Cotillard brings a cold sweetness to Lady Macbeth, and her guilt ridden final speech is magnificient and chilling. Cotillard brings an endearing quality to Lady Macbeth which partly stems from the script changes Kurzel made. A prologue is added showing the Macbeths burying their dead child, so all their subsequent misdemeanours are put in a different light. It might be a controversial move to so radically change one of the most revered works in the English language, but I thought it worked. While making them sympathetic it also conversely makes Macbeth’s later actions concerning Banquo (Paddy Considine) and his son Fleance (Lochlann Harris) appear more evil.
The cinematography is wonderful throughout particularly the colour palette Kurzel uses; blood red and golden skies compete with dark hills. Every shot is beautifully composed. The soundtrack by the directors’ brother Jed Kurzel provides a haunting and pulsating rhythm to every scene, helping to drive the rhythm of the dialogue and giving an uneasy quality throughout, in the same way as his soundtrack for The Babadook did.
Macbeth is wonderfully dark and macabre, and we get to see two fine actors at the peak of their powers in Fassbender and Cotillard. An unforgettable cinematic experience.
Review by Robbie Sunderland