It has been nearly a week since I saw Macbeth (2015, Justin Kurzel) at the New Picture House, my first proper cinematic experience in St Andrews. Seeing this film at such a small, intimate venue made the experience even more breathtaking. If you are going to see this film, I would urge you to see it at the New Picture House on North Street whilst you still can.
For those who are not familiar with the story, the film adapted from the very Scottish play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, follows Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland who receives a prophecy from three witches on the battlefield that he will one day become king. Fuelled by greed and ambition, Macbeth starts on a trail of death and destruction to achieve his goal, with the support of his wife, Lady Macbeth. However, paranoia soon starts to creep into Macbeth’s mind, leading to a gripping tale of madness and tyranny.
Visually, the film is stunning, with vivid swarms of red mist covering the battlefields, and epic battle scenes shot in slow-motion. Moreover, it is simply is littered with breathtaking shots of the Scottish highlands, with gorgeous mountains providing the backdrop for gruesome fight scenes – a perfect juxtaposition. Filmed on location, Scottish viewers will likely find their nationalism just as embedded in this movie as it is in many cultural interpretations of the original work.
Having never seen an adaption of Macbeth before, and therefore having nothing for comparison, I walked into the cinema ready for a gritty, Gothic tale of power and betrayal and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Michael Fassbender’s performance as the destructive Macbeth is one of his best performances yet, and his electric energy can be felt throughout the film. It seems a tough role to reprise, with talented actors such as Orson Welles, Ian McKellen and Kenneth Branagh having all played this part on stage and screen. However Fassbender seems to bring a new overwhelming sense of grief and madness to the role, which really makes for a magnetic, visceral performance.
Similarly, Marion Cotillard gives a stunning rendition of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s cold, scheming wife who encourages him to murder King Duncan for the right to the throne. Despite her delicate, porcelain appearance in the film, Cotillard succeeds in portraying Lady Macbeth as a dark, ruthless woman, prepared to destruct all for the chance of her husband gaining power. Together, Fassbender and Cotillard are a tour de force pair throughout every minute of the film
After anticipating this film for a few months before its release, I was more than pleased at the final result. I left the cinema feeling like I’d just witnessed a visionary piece of cinema, and I had. Overall, a stunningly visceral, visionary adaption of Macbeth, ‘the Scottish play’.
Image from here!