So, true confession time: I loved this movie, but didn’t understand a word of it. Well, okay, maybe half the words. Or a third.
Macbeth is, of course, one of The Bard’s great plays, though one I’m hardly familiar with, which hasn’t always been a burden, and isn’t actually a burden here. Typically, it takes me about 20-30 minutes to get my “Elizabethan Ears”, and I’m enjoying the rhythms and humor of his writing just like a drunk peasant in the cheap seats 400 years ago. It took a lot longer here, for sure: The style of acting (delivering dialogue) is very modern, with everything done in a murmur (into a microphone post-production). Compounding this is the aggressively Scottish accents, almost at needs-subtitle levels (as seen in Angel’s Share).
It’s a very simple plot, though: Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a great Scottish warrior who is goaded into killing the King by his hot wife (Marion Cotillard), after which he gains the kingdom but quickly becomes undone by—well, whatever mechanism that causes humans to go off the rails after they commit egregious ethical breaches. (Shakespeare had a good grasp of it, whatever it is, eh what?) And since, I suspect, that’s the point of the thing, I won’t fault it for leaving so much out.
But, man, it leaves a lot out, so be prepared. It’s under 2 hours and director Justin Kurzel uses a lot of that time for acting—er, emoting? Whatever they call it when they’re not talking. Lots of nice visuals. A story that makes George R. R. Martin look like the hack he is. (I keed! Probably!)
Fassbender (Frank, the young X-Men movies) is great. I always hold a grudge with Cotillard for that Edith Piaf mess, but she always wins me over anyway, dammit. She’s quite good here. Paddy Considine (Child 44, World’s End) is Banquo. David Thewlis (Harry Potter, War Horse) is Duncan. Sean Davis (Serena, Prometheus) is MacDuff. Lotta famous good actors.
Still, I gotta warn you again, there’s a LOT missing. I don’t even know the play and yet I was disappointed by the lack of “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”. The handling of the ghosts and witches was kind of interesting: The witches are relatively minor players and seem quite corporeal other than their tendency to appear and disappear as the moment calls for it. The ghosts seem to be a manifestation of Macbeth’s conscience, except sometimes I think other characters can see them, too.
The Boy, who understood fewer words than I did, also liked it. I’m not sure what that says, except that a lot of art is communicated on a non-verbal level, even in Shakespeare.