Macbeth: The Tale of Two Movies


There are those rare times when a movie is difficult to review. This time it comes in the form of Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth.

Macbeth is the tale two movies.

There’s one movie – a film that’s perfect for theater nerds. It’s the story of Macbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays. After a Scottish General receives a prophecy that he’ll one day become King of Scotland, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) decides to take matters into his own hands and kill the king. After taking the throne, Macbeth’s bloodlust continues and he’s overwhelmed by paranoia, ambition, grief, and tragedy.

Fassbender is the perfect Macbeth. He shines every time he’s on screen and gives a performance worthy of a Shakespearian masterpiece. He gives Macbeth an identity that’s rooted in the original character yet much deeper than the Macbeth people read about in high school.

His performance is matched by Marion Cotillard who gives Lady Macbeth so much personality with so few lines. Cotillard is the perfect onscreen companion for Fassbender.

The screenplay is ripped from The Tragedy of Macbeth and turned into the script. I joked with Matt Oakes that if anyone besides Shakespeare gets a screenplay credit, it would be a travesty.

This movie is as close to a seeing a play on screen as you’ll get.

Then there’s the other movie – a film that’s confusing to watch. It’s the movie that’s impossible to follow for anyone who’s not into Shakespeare or theatre.  Remember the screenplay that’s ripped form Shakespeare’s play? That screenplay doesn’t offer a lot of context for those who don’t know Macbeth’s story. Now, mix Shakespearian slang with a thick Scottish accents and it’s nearly impossible to understand what some of the characters are saying.

For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare, watching Shakespeare is like watching a foreign language film without subtitles. The average moviegoer is going to lose their mind watching this epic tale and not knowing what/why things are being said. Its two hours of yelling and crying. They’ll know it’s supposed to be good, but won’t know why.

Even for those who can’t understand the dialogue, Macbeth is a beautifully shot film.  Director Justin Kruzel uses a lot of very simple, and breathtaking, shots to aid with his storytelling. He shot some of the most creative battle scenes in film with the use of slow motion and color. Its best seen during the final battle with the red and yellow colors from the forest fire, along with the ash (it kind of looks like snow), that washes over the battlefield like medieval confetti.

There are two movies here. Neither is bad, but one will appeal to a hardcore theater crowd and the other will be dismissed by everyone else. The enjoyment of the film depends on your history with Macbeth and not what you’re watching.

Grade: C