Number three in a series of six.
MACBETH - 2015 - movie - directed by Justin Kurzel
The players are: Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), Banquo (Paddy Considine), Fleance (Lochlann Harris), Young Witch (Kayla Fallon),
Middle-aged Witch (Lynn Kennedy), Old Witch (Seylan Baxter), Child Witch (Amber Rissmann), Macdonwald (Milton McRae), King Duncan (David Thewlis), Lennox (David Hayman), Malcolm (Jack Reynor), Thane of Cawdor (Brian Nickels), Angus (James Hawkness), Rosse (Ross Anderson), Macduff (Sean Harris), Seyton (Scott Dymond), Menteith (Maurice Roeves), Lady Macduff (Elizabeth Debicki).
Writer: William Shakespeare – based upon the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed;
Screenplay: Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie
Before we get started let’s put the historical record straight; Shakespeare exercised his historic license: Macbeth did not kill Duncan in his sleep – he killed him on the field battle in 1040. And, after a reign of 17 years, Duncan’s oldest son Malcolm challenged Macbeth to a hand to hand fight and killed him in August of 1057…. but… that’s another movie.
Of the five directors I reviewed in this project Kurzel’s interpretation is the most gory, with blood leaking out of every pour and body parts littering the landscape. He seemed determined to out-bleed Polanski.
Regarding the battle scenes - I don't know how anyone survived; especially given the lack of head protection and the state of medical treatment at that time. Mostly, they didn’t survive, and 800 years later (U.S. Civil War) men in battle were still dying at the same rate.
Kurzel’s dramatic presentation perfectly demonstrates how cinematic technique can make Shakespeare much more enjoyable. Only the most pure and dedicated devotee of the thrust stage could argue otherwise.
The film was shot, during the winter, in Scotland. They filmed for 36 days and it either rained or hailed virtually every day. The temperature was close to freezing and one crew member was lifted off his feet by the wind.
Marion Cotillard, was unfazed by the weather. In one take, while walking barefoot across the heath, she disappeared down a bog hole… fortunately they were able to retrieve her. They spent 20 million dollars on the production, and were returned 16 at the box office.
The story takes place in Scotland, around 1056. Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, a General in the King’s Army, and a decorated warrior, receives a prophecy from 3 witches - one day he will become King of Scotland. Kurzel has focused the Macbeth character on his ambition and desire for power - Fassbender has been perfectly cast for this part.
Kurzel’s biggest contribution to the better understanding of the Macbeths’ motivation is his opening scene, a flash-back, which depicts the funeral of their first and only child, a little boy who died of a common childhood disease. His birth left Lady Macbeth barren and regardless of how valiant Macbeth is on the battlefield, his path to kingship is blocked…
..... they cannot produce an heir…. murder is the only option. As his path descends he laments, "Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren scepter in my grip."
In retrospect it’s sad to note, but the Macbeths had a pretty good life; he was just rewarded for his valiant leadership on the field of battle, they had a nice, upper class life in a beautiful rural setting, and they enjoyed the esteem of their peers.
He probably harbored some deep seated thoughts about more but, being relatively happy, he was reluctant to actively turn those desires into deeds.
However, as the witches’ prophecies are made real, their incantations stirred his hesitant feelings and re-kindled his repressed cravings.
And any unwilling doubts Macbeth might still harbor about becoming king are instantly dashed by Lady Macbeth. Kurzel has freed Marion Cotillard to abandon herself to her dark
side and unleash Lady Macbeth’s smoldering ambition; "Look like the innocent lower, but be the serpent under it."
Haunted by the Witches’ prophecy, Macbeth descends upon his murderous path.
Propelled by desire and goaded to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne.
In a unique staging, showing Lady Macbeth’s decline, Kurzel sits her on
the bare floor of the wooden chapel addressing the ghost of her dead child
sitting in front of her. In a display of pure artistry, with no props, with only the movement of tears running down her cheeks, and unable to wash the blood from her hands, she laments their misguided deeds and chants;
“The Thane of Fife, had a wife – where is she now?”
Where other directors have put cut twigs in front of English soldiers as they march on Dunsinane, Kurzel has set Birnam Woods ablaze.
The Woods come to the castle in the form of bright red embers drifting across the
landscape and illuminating the final scenes in a blood-like glow.
As the ashes of Birnam Woods rain around them Macduff avenges his family’s deaths. He reveals to Macbeth that, as the Witches prophesized, he was not of woman born;
“Despair thy charm, and let the angel whom thou still hast served tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped”.
He disembowels Macbeth, leaving him in the sunset, kneeling on the ground.
As the English troops march by. We cut to Fleance, son Banquo, the friend he murdered... and, as the Witches prophesized, a future king of Scotland.