One enjoyment that recovering from surgery allows me to indulge in is watching movies. I am also a fan of the works of Shakespeare so I decided to watch the 2015 production of the movie ‘Macbeth’ starring Michael Fassbender. I wish I had not.
I think it is right that film versions of Shakespeare’s plays should not feel tied to the stage. Movies offer a much broader perspective for the director and actors to work with. I also think that the use of imagination with regards to the setting is also a benefit. This version of Macbeth appears to take its main visual cue from ‘Braveheart’ only it is not as hairy. Practically every man to be seen sports what my father refers to as a ‘crew cut’ hairstyle, that is, heads almost shaven.
Scotland is represented as a place lacking in light. Almost all of the external scenes are played out in a perpetual fog. When the action moves indoors it is illuminated by candles, literally, making it very difficult to see the actors faces as they go through the rigours of contemplating and committing acts of murder. I am not sure if raising the light level would have improved things, however, as for most of the film everyone just stares vacantly, either at each other or just into space. Lines are delivered mostly in a low monotone with very little use of inflection. The famous ‘is this a dagger I see before me’ scene was played out in almost silhouette, which made me wonder if the Macbeth’s could see anything at all let alone the fateful dagger.
I found this film version of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays entirely disappointing. It was not for the lack of quality in the cast, David Thewliss, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, and Michael Fassbender himself are all accomplished actors. Personally, Justin Kurzel’s direction did not work for me. I simply did not find myself entertained by this version of a play that I have seen many times before. They visual style sucked all the tension out of the drama and the method of delivery failed to inspire an emotional response in relation to the fate of the characters. This film was a long, ponderous journey into a low lit landscape peopled by mud splattered men talking softly, barely changing expression, and waiting for long pauses to develop between lines before making a reply. Bloody, yes, but very dour also.