“We have scorched the snake, not killed it.”


The two Shakespeare films out currently are rather different. Now into its final week, the Horrible Histories fellows have released a flick biographically depicting the author in their trademark silly style. Justin Kurzel’s feature could not be more different.

Atmospherically charged, emotionally strained and visually unique, 2015’s MacBeth is an experience like no other. The feature retains the feel and heart of the 17th century play, but is highly modernised in its direction and cinematography. Mist swirls amongst the Scottish highland landscape with striking pathetic fallacy. The battle-worn fields show the vast expanse of the country as well as the cold desolation of MacBeth’s situation. The air is one of tension and mistrust as the stringed bow musical accompaniment sets one’s teeth on edge.

The scenes of conflict are dirty, grey and a little violent, in a restrained yet impactful fashion. Grey turns into red as the bloodshed intensifies, and MacBeth’s mind becomes further detached from reality. Gore is not there for the superficial pleasure of blood being shed, but as a symbol of the lingering pain of taking a life.


The macabre symbolism drawn from Shakespeare’s classic is superb, as the recurring visions of death, blood and the passage of time are all measured to perfection, especially as the weighty play had to be condensed into a slim duration.The performances match the tension as Fassbender and Cotillard seem to truly be the fatally-ambitious partnership. MacBeth’s mental degeneration is perfectly portrayed; his descent is not forced, but so seemless that it is truly sinister. Cotillard, as his manipulative spouse, does not spit nor snarl, but simply stares into her husband with her piercing eyes and her piercing monologues. Her spiritual soliloquies are hauntingly gothic and a true highlight.

This is true despite the excluding nature of the Shakespearean English. One should not be put off by the isolating wording of the script, but the mumbled Scottish Shakespeare leaves whole chunks of conversation as little more than growls in the wind. Conversation with Banquo (Paddy Constantine) is particularly hard to decipher. Yet, the intention and emotion behind each statement is clear to see, as long as one is willing to persevere. As spoilers fail to exist within Shakespeare, glancing over a plot synopsis before viewing may be advisable.


This flaw can only detract so much from the piece of art Kurzel and his team have created. The tension is real and lingers from the opening moments until the final scene. The visuals are beautiful and will leave even the experienced cinephile with his jaw unhooked.

MacBeth will hang over you like a dagger in the night, just with less mental torment.


Header courtesy of heyuguys. Images courtesy of Guardian, picpicx and gamespot respectively.


3 thoughts on “MacBeth

  1. Looks good! I saw a great production of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe, and it all worked because of how violent and visceral it was. Sounds like the film has taken the same path, and credit to the director for that!

  2. Pingback: Top 9 – October & November Favourites | Wilson Reviews

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