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Film Review: The Bard Reimagined, Reviewing Justin Kurzel's Macbeth

With today's flashy world of cinema, it is becoming increasingly difficult for filmmakers to produce revenue within a purely artistic framework. The pressure is heightened when adapting a worldwide classic. One that is considered to be at the height of theatrical achievement. It is for those reasons that I recommend Justin Kurzel's latest piece, Macbeth. Coloured with the breathtaking landscapes of Scotland combined with beautiful cinematography, the aesthetics alone are enough to draw viewers in. For those fanatical about Shakespeare's work and the artistry of theatrical literature, one can consider this the perfect cinematic example of his bardic genius.

As many would know, Shakespeare's art was in his use of language, this was his originality. Throughout the film, it is clear that this was the focal point. To maintain his art is an homage to one history's greatest writers, to revolve the entire epic around it is to show the utmost respect of his work. In Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, the original language was maintained, but it was merely a decorative motif that interluded with the modernised concept. The focus was the story, the events, the characters, it didn't delve further than this, and as such used the language as a juxtaposition. One could argue that maintaining the original script creates an artistic contrast to the atmosphere of the film, but one must disregard this when considering Shakespeare, as his genius was the structure of his words, not the stories they created.

As previously touched upon; it is difficult to create a film that appeals to a large audience whilst retaining a somewhat niche, artistic focal point. With this in mind it only makes sense to use visually pleasing cinematography, however, certain colour schemes and special effects in any film do more than make it nice to look at; Guillermo Del Toro likened the choice of colour and use of lighting in Crimson Peak to painting a picture, as far as his work is concerned, referencing his influence from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. With this year's release of Mad Max: Fury Road, commended for its outstanding artistry, to follow that a filmmaker would need to either match it or outdo it. After all, when it comes to the general populace, it is the initial attraction that pulls them in and keeps the film fresh in their minds.

I will say that while a great deal of Kurzel's film garnered my respect and left me inspired, aspects of this piece did disappoint me; there was a certain narrative that seemed to be missing. The sombre glow of the Celtic highlands, interspersed with piercing monologues and haunting fight scenes, with swords clashing and tragedy afoot, an omitted component. Admirable as it was to focus on the language that shaped our world, this focus lost a sense of cinematic structure had been sacrificed. As such, without a profound knowledge on Shakespeare's work, it is easy to imagine the scenes bleeding together, creating a sense of linguistic chaos.

With this in mind, I commend not only the performances of Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, as the leading actors, but Paddy Considine and Sean Harris for their portrayal of Banquo and Macduff. They kept a sense of order and precision, and perhaps that was the intention; two embodiments of cinematic justice portraying reason and law against the antagonists, reigning in the otherwise rampant anarchy of Macbeth's dictatorial role. While it is nearly impossible to pick just one moment from the film as a personal favourite, the finale left me stunned. A moment of complete madness, executed with the discipline of battle and maintaining the flow of Shakespearean language.


Bradshaw, Peter. 'Macbeth Review: Fassbender And Cotillard Full Of Sound And Fury In Significant Shakespeare Adaptation'. the Guardian. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Feldman, Gail. 'Inside Film - Adapting Shakespeare To Film'. Insidefilm.com. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Jenkins, David. 'The Great Guillermo'. Little White Lies 2015: 8, 9, 10, 11,. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and A. R Braunmuller. Macbeth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.


Written By Jennifer Richards


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