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Film Review: Macbeth (2015)

A visually stunning and magnificent adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender as the titular anti-hero, along with Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, Paddy Considine as Banquo, Sean Harris as Macduff, and David Thewlis as King Duncan. After receiving a prophecy from three witches foretelling his future as king, Macbeth sets off on a bloody quest to ascend to the throne, but staying there requires another level of violence entirely. Consumed by guilt and unable to stop seeing enemies, Macbeth is slowly driven insane. Fate, guilt, madness, and a touch of the supernatural turn a story about a lust for power into a timeless, classic character study.

The vast and beautiful countryside of Scotland is transformed into a mysterious, otherworldly hellscape in this most recent adaptation and artful take on the Scottish play. With spectacular cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, as well as stellar costuming and makeup (blue eyeshadow has never looked more beautiful than a single, pale stripe across Cotillard’s lids), the supernatural elements of the story and Macbeth’s growing madness get to play on the screen, elevated as they are to the symbolic and unearthly. Frame after frame is beautifully composed with gorgeous light and fog effects that bring out the searing colours of the scenes and set an atmospheric stage for the actors. Fassbender takes on the role of Macbeth in a fresh and believable way, bringing to life the indecisive murderer turned haunted tyrant. Cotillard effortlessly holds the camera’s gaze with her performance of the cruel and controlling Lady Macbeth, her husband’s equal in every way. Uneven accents among the cast are a bit distracting (the minor characters have strong Scottish brogues but the leads, except for Thewlis, do not even attempt to pass for Scottish) but understandable for the sake of being able to hear the dialogue. Some scenes are also altered from the source text; for example, Lady Macbeth does not sleepwalk guiltily but instead goes away to commune with her dead child. Minor deviations notwithstanding, this arthouse take on Macbeth revitalizes the Bard and brings back the violence and intensity of the original play.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stripes of charcoal-black war paint

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