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Macbeth (2015)

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Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman in a Macbeth set in the 11th century? Sure, okay.
 

Snowtown’s Justin Kurzel will direct the update of Shakespeare’s classic thriller produced by The King’s Speech and Shame producers See-Saw. Writers are Todd Louiso and Jacob Koskoff.

The script has been one of the most in-demand ahead of the Cannes Film Festival with a number of sales outfits keen to work on the film.
Development and production backing on the UK-Australian co-production comes from Film4.

The production sees Fassbender reunited with Shameproducers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman and Film4, with whom the actor worked on Hunger, Shame and the upcoming Frank.

The new take on Shakespeare’s classic - about a ruthlessly ambitious Scottish lord who siezes the throne with the help of his scheming wife and three witches - is set in the 11th century and in the original language.

The script is understood to be a visceral approach to the story including significant battle scenes.

 

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In this era of Shakespeare movies, it's rather distinctive to set the play in its original context, actually.

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Tyler wrote:

: They should go full Passion of the Christ and film it in whatever language 11th century Scots spoke.

Seems kind of amazing, in hindsight, that Mel Gibson didn't go that route with the mostly 13th-century Braveheart.

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Tyler wrote:

: They should go full Passion of the Christ and film it in whatever language 11th century Scots spoke.

Seems kind of amazing, in hindsight, that Mel Gibson didn't go that route with the mostly 13th-century Braveheart.

If I recall correctly, he does say on one of his commentaries (either Braveheart or Apocalypto - probably the former) that he originally wanted to film it in Gaelic. The studio nixed the idea.

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Tyler wrote:

: They should go full Passion of the Christ and film it in whatever language 11th century Scots spoke.

Seems kind of amazing, in hindsight, that Mel Gibson didn't go that route with the mostly 13th-century Braveheart.

If I recall correctly, he does say on one of his commentaries (either Braveheart or Apocalypto - probably the former) that he originally wanted to film it in Gaelic. The studio nixed the idea.

Actually, that might have possibly made for another area where Braveheart wasn't quite historically accurate. By the thirteenth century Gaelic would have been in decline in the Lowlands of Scotland. William Wallace possibly would have been speaking Inglis, or at least possibly have known the language.

FWIW. In the era of MacBeth Scots Gaelic would have had been the dominant language in Scotland. It came into the country with the Scoti from Ireland, in and around the same era that the Iona monastery was at its height (under St. Columba who was a Scoti.) By the time of MacBeth Scots Gaelic would have dominated over the Pictish language. Of course, as mentioned, shortly after the era of MacBeth it very much declined in the English influenced Lowlands but continued in the Clan system of the Highlands.

Edited by Attica

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Nathan Douglas wrote:

: If I recall correctly, he does say on one of his commentaries (either Braveheart or Apocalypto - probably the former) that he originally wanted to film it in Gaelic.

Ah, yes, that rings a bell...

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I missed this when it was originally posted.

 

There's nothing special about setting Shakespeare's Macbeth in the 11th c. Whatever the time/place setting of Shakespeare's plays, "authentic" staging would be to put everyone in Elizabethan costumes, because Shakespeare and his co-producers and audience had very little concern for anachronism. Similarly, Julius Caesar & Brutus would have been wearing breeches & ruffs instead of togas.

 

Besides that, although the play is a masterful character study of ambition, passion, and violence, it has little connection to actual history. If somebody wants to go for historic 11th c. authenticity, make a Macbeth movie based on Fiona Watson's Macbeth: A True History or Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter.

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Jeffrey Wells:

 

I was struck by the absence of any florid Shakespearean verse in the footage for the Michael Fassbender-and-Marion Cotillard Macbeth (due in ’15) so I asked Harvey if the film contains any of that. “It’s cut down,” Harvey said. “[The film is] very conducive to mainstream audiences.” So this new Macbeth doesn’t resemble the 1971 Polanski version? “No, no…it’s somewhere in the middle but it’s very understandable,” Harvey replied. So instead of Fassbender saying “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” he’ll just say “tomorrow”? Here’s the mp3 of our brief discussion.

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Reviews are coming in now. 

 

Kaleem Aftab at Indiewire

 

Notably, in addition to working on the two great crime movies in Australia’s recent cinema — "Animal Kingdom" and "The Snowtown Murders" — Arkapaw photographed the critically acclaimed television shows "Top of the Lake" and "True Detective." This television work has most influenced his lensing of "Macbeth," which includes a fantastic use of mist and fire that creates the atmosphere of a horror film, and candles as prominent as bonfires that light the hills. Throw into the mix three straggly clairvoyants who come from different generations — old, adult, and child — and "Macbeth" develops the ominous atmosphere of "The Wicker Man" more than anything in Shakespeare's oeuvre. The text nicely compliments these compelling images. The soliloquies frequently surface alongside thrilling montages of violent encounters.
 
The director gives Fassbender plenty of opportunities to convey Macbeth's developing madness, particularly when he's running around his huge, minimalist, but rather cold-looking bedroom. Such imaginative moments may be as a result of what he's seen on the battlefield as much as his more personal acts of treachery.
 
Ultimately, though, the narrative innovation and stylized images lead the compelling adaptation to fall on its sword. When the battle ends and the story settles down into a tale of reckless ambition involving the relationship between Macbeth and his Lady, the scenes lack substance. Intriguingly, Marion Cotillard plays Lady Macbeth in grieving mother mode, tapping into a longstanding theory among Shakespeare aficionados that the couple had children before the events of the play; this tragedy sets her on a path toward madness.

 

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Guy Lodge at Variety:

 

As the shortest, sharpest and most stormily violent of William Shakespeare’s tragedies, “Macbeth” may be the most readily cinematic: The swirling mists of the Highlands, tough to fabricate in a theater, practically rise off the printed page. So it’s odd that, while “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” get dusted off at least once a generation by filmmakers, the Scottish Play hasn’t enjoyed significant bigscreen treatment since Roman Polanski’s admirable if tortured 1971 version. The wait for another may be even longer after Justin Kurzel’s scarcely improvable new adaptation: Fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period. Though the Bard’s words are handled with care by an ideal ensemble, fronted by Michael Fassbender and a boldly cast Marion Cotillard, it’s the Australian helmer’s fervid sensory storytelling that makes this a Shakespeare pic for the ages — albeit one surely too savage for the classroom.

 

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This. was. terrible. (except for Cotillard, but there wasn't much she could do.)

First of all, it's not adapted from Shakespeare's Macbeth, it's adapted from the Sparknotes version of Macbeth. Several crucial scenes are missing (the second half of Macbeth's dagger soliloquy and all of "Double double toil and trouble" for starters.) Considering the film is still two hours, the missing scenes are replaced with new lines by the screenwriters quickly filling in any information that is needed, and two LONG battle sequences that frame both ends of the film, both of which are shot and jarringly edited with absurd slow-motion video game like sequences in the Gladiator and 300 school. (And Gladiator looks a lot more visually appealing than this.)

So much of Shakespeare's play is missing that for this Shakespeare lover a suitable analogy would be watching a film adaptation of the Gospels which removes "The Baptism in the Jordan," "The Sermon on the Mount," and "The Agony in the Garden." Or a film of Les Miserables which cuts "I Dreamed a Dream," "Who Am I?" and "Bring Him Home."

Speaking of Les Miserables, many people complained about Hooper's sloppy editing and camera work, but compared to this, Hooper looks like Orson Welles. Justin Kurzel relies on an overabundance of close-ups, and his idea of quick pacing is to extremely over edit - I'd be hard pressed to name a single shot that lasts longer than 5 seconds. (I think there were two or three, but I couldn't swear to it.)

For the hype about setting this in the 11th century, that Gothic architecture for the castle looked more 14th or 15th century to me.

As I said, Cotillard is good, but it's hard to tell because the camera is constantly interrupting scenes by jumping to new shots. Kurzel also doesn't allow her to become as unhinged as she needs to. She merely becomes wracked with guilt; she never loses her mind. I don't have any idea what Fassbender was doing. He plays Macbeth as a cipher, which I thought was grossly inappropriate, and he has no progression or descent into evil at all. He recites the lines about Macbeth's guilt and hesitation, but then carries out the murder of Duncan without any hesitation, and he's not even shaken by having done the deed. The portrayal of the Macbeths ruined the opposite character arcs that the two are supposed to have as they both lose their minds in different ways.

In fairness, I suppose it doesn't help that I watched the very, very good Polanski adaptation for the first time a few weeks ago.

Edited by Evan C

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The film collapsed under its own weight.  I didn't mind the visual stylization; it worked more often than it didn't.  I did mind that 95% of the dialogue seemed to be whispered/mumbled and the other 5% screamed.  What's the point of Shakespeare if you're not going to enunciate?

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On 12/12/2015, 10:49:03, Evan C said:

So much of Shakespeare's play is missing that for this Shakespeare lover a suitable analogy would be watching a film adaptation of the Gospels which removes "The Baptism in the Jordan," "The Sermon on the Mount," and "The Agony in the Garden." Or a film of Les Miserables which cuts "I Dreamed a Dream," "Who Am I?" and "Bring Him Home."

Or a version of Into the Woods that omits "No More" and the reprise of "Agony."

(Okay, okay. It's not quite the same thing.)

But seriously, I had little hope for this ever since I read that the script was being abridged. This isn't Hamlet we're dealing with. The play is quite short as it is, and shouldn't need to be cut further. (I still plan to see it, though. Miriam Cotillard as Lady Macbeth isn't something you can just pass up.)

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4 hours ago, Rushmore said:

Or a version of Into the Woods that omits "No More" and the reprise of "Agony."

(Okay, okay. It's not quite the same thing.)

Indeed not.

Seriously, though, there's nothing that this film gets *right* the way Marshall's Into the Woods got many moments of the musical *right.* I didn't mind cutting some of the play (the drunk guard rambling about the effects of wine isn't crucial to anything in the plot, though I do enjoy it - that would be similar to cutting the reprise of "Agony." The cutting of any of the dagger soliloquy and "Double double..." is unforgivable. I'd say cutting the exchange between Lady Macduff and her son would be similar to cutting "No More." By itself I could have lived with just that, on top of everything else, no way.) But what really bothered me was they were hacking apart the play to make time for these horrifically, sloppily filmed battle sequences that just looked terrible.

Edited by Evan C

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I began February by watching perhaps the greatest adaptation of Shakespeare I'd seen on film - Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight.  Unfortunately, I might have ended my February film viewing with this, maybe one of the worst Shakespearean adaptations on film.

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