The first major film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” since Polanski’s in 1971 is not exactly Christmas red. Ambition quickly morphing into murder is filmed using a blood red filter for many of the images. When the “hurly- burly is done” we are left with visual poetry and a Scottish heavy metal score interspersed with cello and whale-like calls. I was driven to re-read the play even while empire -building is not my thing.
Director Justin Kurzel and brother Jed ,who mined the score, bring a candle-lighted ballet of blood flow. Slow motion is used amid the thrusts and pounds. Battle ready thunder is white fogged and the soldiers are young. Children are used not as innocents,but as a means of perpetuating man’s meaner traits. Guilt seems to play a secondary role to “the heart knocks on my ribs” of tyrannical power enfolding.
A visual feast of staged vignettes, of groups waiting, are interspersed between major soliloquies. Michael Fassbender aces MacBeth ‘s vaulting ambition with piercingly purposeful, glinting eyes. The two sex scenes were power-laden yet tender. A hard mix, that. As Lady MacBeth, Marion Cotillard shows love for MacBeth in a way I never read with Shakespeare. She plays not a cold, braided beauty, inspired by greed and status,but rather an instrument to her husband’s climb. Her eyes show bold and resolute, but they also mirror tenderness and remorse,practicality and madness. Their deeds drain them. “The wine of life is gone”.
Whale song music dredges the emotional depths and both King and Queen literally pale in a blue- hazed whiteness. There is no jovality in any scene. Even the banquet desolves without communion or repast. There is no feasting. ” My mind is full of scorpions” has MacBeth toy with a knife on Lady MacBeth’s stomach, a very uncomfortable scene,as was the face of the boy who watched his father being knife-ribboned.
“So steeped in blood I can not sleep” leads MacBeth to night-shirted and bare-footed horseback riding and more glorious cinematography from Adam Aarkapaw.
The fiend of Scotland finds bone marrowless: life is “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Lady Macbeth does not have a death scene in this adaptation. Her repetition of ” to bed, to bed” and “tomorrow, tomorrow” leave her dead in bed.
Now, MacBeth calls on Satan for his flesh to be hacked in battle. ” Give me my armor. I have lived long enough.”Again, a battle ballet rolls with thrusts and spurts, hand to hand crunches and witches’ stares. Death is given like a gift. This is not the merry red of Christmas, but a flaming and interesting adaptation to be sure.