Coffee-table Macbeth

Visually speaking, the 2015 Macbeth by director Justin Kurzel is stunning. I can recall dozens of images from the film that I’d love to have as photographs. There are easily enough of those images to fill a book, and one I’d happily display.

However, as a drama, the film loses touch with Shakespeare’s story. It doesn’t happen at once. In fact, at the beginning, where Kurzel gives us some background to the version on the page, he does quite well. There’s a reason why Banquo’s line is to succeed Macbeth’s and the brutality of battle in the 11th century is convincingly portrayed.

This Macbeth, however, is all mood and appearance. There’s little in the way of character development, and there’s no change in pacing or sense of arc, and that pace is occasionally near ponderous. The characters don’t interact so much as mutter soliloquies, even when the lines are ostensibly spoken to the person in front of them. This is clearly not the fault of the actors, it is a stylistic choice by Kurzel, and one that did little to endear him to me.

As is common with Shakespeare on film, there are many cuts (and revisions) to the text. In this case, it’s almost as if the director feels he doesn’t need to tell the story, just provide an impressionistic rendering with a few of each character’s “greatest hits” to accompany the spectacle.

If that was indeed his intent, then he didn’t succeed. I’d rather have a picture book of his images to look at while I listen to audio of real flesh-and-blood characters interacting in a way that feels like drama.




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