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Film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays face both a problem and an opportunity. Deviate too far from the source material and you will both anger the devotees and the dialogue will jar with the images. Stick too close and your film may be too static and uncinematic. Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth negotiates this issue impressively by mining the source text for meaning and expressing this meaning in gorgeous cinematic form. Kurzel and screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Leslie and Todd Louiso use Shakespeare’s language with compelling intimacy, dialogue scenes framed in close-up while the performers largely whisper as though weighed down by the landscape around them. And what landscape, DOP Adam Arkapaw lensing the Scottish highlands in compelling depth and often colouring shots in deep, brooding red. Mist regularly shrouds the moors and mountains, through which the characters move as if in a dream, especially the witches whose supernatural qualities are merely suggested. This suggestion adds to the damaged psyche of Michael Fassbender’s mesmerizing Macbeth, traumatized by deaths on the domestic and military front. The film does not clarify whether Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) are motivated by supernatural forces or their own psychological torment, a major aspect of the play that receives distinctive cinematic form. There are many such aspects in this production, which combine into a brooding, bloody and ethereal experience, of a type that is best achieved on screen rather than stage. Macbeth thus demonstrates the continued potential for the Bard in cinema.



  1. […] and arrestingly. Kurtzel stylises speech, location and action in a manner similar to his superb Macbeth, and while the emotional heft of Assassin’s Creed may not reach that of the Shakespearean […]

  2. […] for nearly as long as the medium, with multiple representations, interpretations and mediations. Justin Kurzel’s film,  with a screenplay by Shaun Grant based on the novel by Peter Carey, is another of […]

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