One would think the movie set primarily on Mars would be the reddest film of the year. Not so.
You know the story. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), Thane of Glamis, after winning a great victory against the rebellious Macdonwald (Hilton McRae), is greeted by the fates (Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy, Kayla Fallon and Amber Rissmann). They hail him as Thane of Cawdor and then as King of Scotland, but say it will be his brother-in-arms, Banquo (Paddy Considine), who will father a long line of kings. Though initially skeptical, Macbeth is promptly awarded lordship over Cawdor for his valor. When his wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), hears the news, she convinces him to murder King Duncan (David Thewlis). From here, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth assume the throne, but are driven mad by guilt and paranoia, having half their kingdom assassinated by the time they are violently deposed themselves.
Shakespeare is taught to every high school child in America, but they teach it all wrong. Shakespeare didn’t write novels, he wrote plays. The Tragedy of Macbeth isn’t meant to be read, it’s meant to be performed.
And oh, how it is performed here.
Macbeth is filled to the brim with murder, betrayal, witchcraft, child murder and murder, and you can’t really show all that onstage. They just kind of talk about it, and then theater majors gush about iambic pentameter or whatever. You can show it in a movie, and they do. This is the most thoroughly R-rated movie to come out in a long, long time. It is absolutely not for the faint of heart.
It is, however, absolutely more than a stage play could ever be. Director Justin Kurzel uses every tool at his disposal to tell this story in a way it could never be told live. Mass battle scenes, voiceovers, blood everywhere — it’s an almost Lynchian film, with several dream-like sequences and a general guided-by-fate feel. Almost every scene that isn’t dialogue is a voiceover of some kind with grim, murder-filled visuals.
That’s the best thing about this film — it isn’t just a performance of Macbeth. This feels like Macbeth. Supersaturated by violence and menace, somehow unpredictable despite the story being centuries old, this movie creates the feeling you should get while watching a story this focused on madness and death.
And the sound — oh God, the sound! — the film’s soundtrack is available in full on Youtube and linked below, do yourself a favor and carve out an hour to listen.
As transcendent as this film is, it is not for everyone. In addition to its incorrigible violence, this is an extremely visual film, and you won’t get much out of it unless your eyes are glued to the screen.
This movie requires a strong stomach and a long attention span, but if you have both, it’s one of the most rewarding cinematic experiences in several years. See it at the earliest opportunity.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Your mom knew he had so much blood in him. I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.