Thursday, 8 October 2015

Blood will have blood

Even though I consider myself a huge theatre and Shakespeare fan, I had never seen actually seen a production of Macbeth until this evening (unless you count one entirely performed in German by confused school children. Which I do not). I think Macbeth is one of those tales which is so in the public consciousness and culture that you can feel you know everything about it, while never actually having seen it or knowing what it's truly about. And while that did used to be me, and as a literature student I should probably be embarrassed about the fact, I'm actually thrilled that I got experience all the tragedy and shocks in Justin Kurzel's indescribably beautiful 2015 version.

Known all over as The Scottish Play, Kurzel's screening made excellent use of this characteristic, with astonishing shots of the Scottish highlands abounding, making this film - if nothing else - a visual treat. These sweeping, panoramic scenes of the desolate landscape are contrasted with close, almost cramped interior shots of the King's tent, of Macbeth's castle and of the candle-filled church, juxtaposing the wildness of nature with the calculating and oppressive nature of power and politics. The use of colour is particularly striking, with earthy, natural tones dominating both the scenery and costumes, only to be broken with flashes of scarlet blood. The blood-red tones take over the film towards the end, as the violence caused by Macbeth increases, culminating in a tense fight scene against an orange and red sky.

Despite the visually arresting cinematography, however, this version of Macbeth is a very stripped back one. Many of the play's most fantastic and extravagant scenes are removed, including the famous 'double double, toil and trouble', with the witches themselves appearing as simple women who blend in with the crowd, yet whose eerie presence is constantly felt and noticed. The performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are equally as subtle, and are all the more powerful for it. Fassbender perfectly captures Macbeth's conflict between honour and ambition, and his descent into madness with each bloody act is tragic to watch. Cotillard entirely holds her own next to Fassbender, portraying a woman who slowly loses control of the monster she herself has created. Both Fassbender and Cotillard's performances are made all the more emotive thanks to Kurzel's innovative directorial emphasis on children throughout the film. From the couple's dead child at the very beginning of the play and the prophecy surrounding Banquo's son, to the violent murder of McDuff's children and even the witches' small daughter, children seem at the heart of this adaptation, and serve to question who these battles are really being fought for.

With a tight, fast-paced screenplay, gorgeously atmospheric music and an an excellent cast and direction, there is little to fault with this newest version of Macbeth. Although some may miss the theatricality of the original play, this gritty, brutal version reflects its tragic, violent subject matter perfectly.

Speaking of Scotland, I've actually moved back! Although I have switched the adorable yet tiny town of St Andrews for the frankly stunning and wonderful city of Edinburgh. Am now on my third degree (I'm collecting them), doing a PhD in English Literature. If I ever figure out what exactly I'm doing I will try and write about it here. 

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