Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a Scottish earl and known as noble and loyal. Pushed by his wife (Marion Cotillard), he murders the king (David Thewlis) at an opportune moment, taking his place as the king of Scotland. With this blood on his hands, he spends his days in moral anguish and tries to get rid of those who suspect him of this deed. With every step, he becomes more a tyrant, until his past catches up with him and causes his downfall.
I am not native English speaker, so this was quite a challenge for me, because they lifted Shakespeare’s poetry right from his pages to the script. I used English subtitles and concentrated hard. Still.
Text like this:
- I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none.
- My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white.
- Who could refrain that had a heart to love, and in that heart courage to make love known?
When that text goes fast, I have real trouble to take up all the meaning, but while some of the lines went too fast on one or two occasions, I got the gist of it. Whenever I was right there with the lines, it was quite beautiful.
Some of the acting really stands out as great. Fassbender himself is a good pick for portraying a pained warrior, although, a problem that I have with films like these is that the actors sometimes seem to just recite their lines instead of showing the emotions that those lines hint at. Fassbender’s role of a pained man makes him stare a lot in anguish. But staring and reciting lines leads to a type of acting that you could call subtle or understated, and I wonder if a more expressive performance would have been better.
Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth is perfect. There is a scene where she delivers a monologue while staring into the camera and it is really impressive. Also, a particular scene where a man is told that his wife and children have been slain, that has some amazing acting that glues you to the screen.
This film has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in years, it’s right up there with The Revenant, Sicario and Mad Max: Fury Road. Scotland in this film is just as dramatic as the alpine forests and deserts of those movies. The castles and cathedrals here are these dark grey caverns with beams of light from the windows and behind them the diffuse shadows of people. The end fight is stunning. Burning forests turn Macbeth and his assailant into the colour of blood, with orange clouds and fiery sparks that frame their sword dance.
There was something strange though about a sense of time. The story felt like it went too fast, like it all happened in a week. But the emotional changes in the characters hint that a far longer time went by, like, over the course of a year. There are some heavy changes, like becoming king, people losing their minds, people rousing armies and marching up and down. That doesn’t happen over a week.
I fear that this film will be quickly dismissed as incomprehensible because of the poetry, or as a bad adaptation of the Shakespeare original, although I wouldn’t know about that. But that would be a pity, because as a film, this one is really impressive and deserves to be seen.