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Movie Review: “Macbeth”

Dec 102015
 By , December 10, 2015
Movie Review: "Macbeth"


“Macbeth” – a film review by Gary Chew

I wrote my comment for the studio rep at the screening of Macbeth as follows: ‘Tis an unruly film … fraught with death and anguish … or maybe it was “anguish and death.” I can’t remember. Anyway … adding to that, maybe I should throw in: if you aren’t rather well-versed in the genius of William Shakespeare’s oeuvre, you may do better by seeing the upcoming Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg holiday flick.

Macbeth Several issues add to the density of this most-performed of Shakespeare’s plays. His celebrated style, though more than venerable, is difficult for 21st century listeners. The accents, mostly spoken in hushed or total whispers (except during battles scenes) are sometimes tricky to perceive with a set of American English speaker’s eardrums.

Furthermore, I’d bet the great Shakespeare didn’t write his plays with any thought they might be adapted for a movie script. Lack of motion among the characters except during the gory battle scenes and/or executions — overlaid in an abundance of soliloquies — might be appreciated by moviegoers as a slog. At least a dozen or so in the theater made an exit well before the final curtain for Macbeth.

MacbethOn the other hand, the cinematics that unfold are quite striking, darkly riding the open chords bowed by treble and rich low-stringed instruments. For those musical, I didn’t hear one major or minor third in the empty but effective chords written by Jed Kurzel.

Michael Fassbender, following in the bloody footsteps of the likes of Orson Welles, Kenneth Branagh, and others, is Macbeth and Marion Cotillard is Lady MacBeth. Fassbender and Cotillard are why I wanted to be sure to see this screening. Either actor has done such memorable work in previous films. I had to see the both of them get their Shakespeare on. Each wears the Bard well.

Paddy Considine is Banquo; Lochlann Harris is Banquo’s son, Fleance; Sean Harris is Macduff; David Thewlis is King Duncan and Jack Reynor plays Duncan’s son, Malcolm. All are directed by Justin Kurzel, Jed’s older brother. The Kurzels are Australian.

macbethIt’s a three-and-half star movie for those who want to measure this Macbeth with the other Macbeths they’ve seen … whether on stage or screen: like wanting to know what orchestra plays Beethoven’s 5th best, the Chicago, the New York or the Berlin Philharmonic, for example.

One more thing: since Macbeth (the character) is principally manipulated in his heinous actions by the prognostications of three witches and Lady Macbeth’s moxie, I submit that this true artistic work of tragedy would best be celebrated, as a play or a motion picture, on Halloween not Christmas. Just a thought, methinks.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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