Thursday, December 03, 2015

“Macbeth”– Movie Review




This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the latest adaptation of the Shakespearean drama, “Macbeth”, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. 


When a member of Scottish nobility murders the king to take the throne himself, will he be able to hold on to his new-found power once his life and monarchy are threatened?


After defeating a horde of troops sent to overthrow the besieged King Duncan of Scotland, it is a general by the name of Macbeth (Fassbender) who is rewarded for his victory by being promoted to thane, a rank of Scottish nobility.  While he should be exhilarated by this, he is instead haunted by the memory of a trio of witches who confronted him after the battle, predicting that he will eventually become King Of Scotland.  Upon returning home, his wife, Lady Macbeth (Cotillard), goads him into murdering the king so he can rise to power. 

She concocts an elaborate plan where the king’s guards are made so drunk that they pass out, allowing Macbeth to sneak past them and stab Duncan to death.  The next morning, when Duncan is found dead, the guards are suspected of the crime and murdered forthwith.  Now being a member of nobility and the memory of his heroics still fresh, Macbeth is made king.  However, the premonitions by the witches stalk him to the point that his behavior turns most erratic and before long, Lady Macbeth is convinced that her husband has indeed Lost The Royal Marbles. 

Things go south rather quickly thereafter.  Lady Macbeth, perhaps laden by guilt from what they’ve both done, decides it’s time to make a hasty retreat so she commits suicide.  When her husband learns of this, he spirals even more out of control (if it’s possible to imagine such a thing by this point).  When English forces led by Duncan’s son try to overtake Macbeth’s castle, Macbeth must do battle with Macduff, his former compatriot who previously helped him defend Duncan.  With his world in disarray and even his own people questioning his wisdom, can Macbeth defeat his old friend to retain the throne?  


Shakespeare’s works have long been considered timeless and rightly so.  One reason why “Macbeth” falls into the timeless category is because of its theme.  Whether you’re attending a production of “Macbeth” or viewing an episode of the Netflix series “House Of Cards”, everyone likes a good, juicy story about blind ambition for absolute power and its accompanying greed.  When we see how evil these people are, it makes us feel as though we are above that sort of behavior, even though deep down we like to think we are capable of doing whatever it takes to achieve such rarefied levels of success.

Whether or not the performances by Fassbender and Cotillard are up to snuff may be best left for Shakespearean scholars to debate.  For the rest of us, however, they seemed flawless.  As far as the movie itself, it will be less appealing to people who enjoy costume dramas than it will be to those who like bloody, gory violence.  The fight scenes should be enough to satisfy almost anyone’s bloodlust for the sanguine grume.  There is, however, some discretion used when a woman and her children are tied to pillars and set on fire – apparently done to avoid a more extreme rating. 

When remaking a classic, you’re putting yourself in an extraordinarily vulnerable position because others before you have had various interpretations of the same work; yours will inevitably be compared to theirs, either favorably or unfavorably.  In that regard, it’s either unbelievably daring or unforgivably narcissistic to take a whack at “Macbeth” once again.  For both directors and actors, ego demands that you try your hand at it with the hope that yours will be the definitive interpretation.  For some of us, however, the definitive “Macbeth” won’t occur until Andrew “Dice” Clay is cast in the title role. 


Macbeth (2015) on IMDb

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