Features Unpopped Kernels

Unpopped Kernels: Macbeth (2015)

It’s not very often I see a film that I am utterly enthralled with that I actively put off writing about it. There is a general sense of falseness as I write this; like I’m putting on the mask of a critic in order to explain what captivated me so but the words all seem hollow. Awkwardly shuffling in my seat, my fingers hesitating over the clippity clap of keys because it cannot echo the beating of my heart I experienced coming out of this film.

Nevertheless, my first world struggle is now being battled. Mainly because I’ve seen a lot of superb films lately, including the furore driven space epic The Martian, and I can confidently say that Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is defiantly the best movie of the year.

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Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, Shakespeare’s biggest tragedy is stunningly realised on the big screen. Macbeth revolves around an ambitious Bain of Scotland who, on the aftermath of a battlefield, sees three witches who gift him with a prophecy that he will be King. Taking the news back to his wife, Lady Macbeth, she ruthlessly urges him to kill the reigning King Duncan in order to succeed the throne. However, racked with guilt and visions of bloody war, could the act send both Macbeths into turbulent insanity?

Taking Shakespeare and placing his works on the big screen is something that artists of screen and stage have been doing for an extremely long time. I mean, each generation as a whole hoard of Romeo & Juliets and even Macbeth has its own versions every now and then, with James McAvoy being the most notable recent version in Jamie Lloyd’s production. On the screen, Orson Welles and more have similarly tackled the movie. So Kurzel has a lot of success to live up to whilst still creating something completely new, which is a hard task in this age of cinema.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Macbeth because Kurzel mostly kept to the original text dialogue. Not to generalise an entire audience base but the stuffy Shakespearian language can be off-putting to an average sect of cinema-goers. Whilst I’m not trying to polarise people into those who enjoy the old dialogue and people who don’t, this modern adaptation is contemporary in the sense of some of the sillier elements of Shakespeare’s work have been shifted and changed to make much more of a tonal sense with the story. As well as this, Kurzel utilises current cinematography and filmmaking techniques in order to embellish the tale with a gorgeousness that I’ll touch upon later.

One of the main successes of Macbeth is its cast. Spectacular, haunting, and altogether profound, both Fassbender and Cotillard excavate the darkness within their characters in such a visceral manner that they spellbind you. Fassbender as the titular warrior drowns in the madness he has crafted for himself whilst similarly quenching at the teat of ambition. This concoction leads to a devilish performance in which Fassbender’s talent poisons Macbeth with something completely original. Ensnaring you into this tale of brutality and violence, Fassbender equally captures a tenderness and abandoned soul and unearths a quaking fear with similar ferociousness that James McAvoy did in Filth (the pair are really complimentary acting souls).

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Within Cotillard, Lady Macbeth becomes witch-like in her drive yet human in her ultimate demise. Balancing the two halves of Macbeth, Cotillard defines the role. Poetically alluring, she passionate captures the mercilessness of the wife and drags you, as an audience member, into her palms as she is ready to crush you. In Cotillard, the film charges forward and the actress is able to balance the duality as she teeters into guilt and dismay. In equal measure, against the doldrums that she beats on the screen, her enrapturing abandon is gloriously realised. Romping around the moors of Scotland, Cotillard unravels her character’s mentality like a silk thread spiralling with an elegant yet pain-filled conscious, rambling with her journey in an excellent way.…

Surrounding them, the likes of Paddy Considine as Banquo, Sean Harris as Macduff, and David Thewlis as Duncan spice the film with even more acting excellence. Each actor, from leading man to small extra, brings the distinction to this wondrous film and not one person is out of step with Kurzel’s vision.

Vision is a fortunate word to use for Kurzel’s work here because, whilst actors are knocking performances out of the moors, he and his crew are painting a masterpiece on the screen. Through gripping camera moves that slows the action down and speeds it up at timely moments to the colours that dance like tamed flames on the screen, this is a simply beautiful film. The palette is crafted carefully and poignantly that the colours are opulent and in sync with the burning themes. Not only this, but Kurzel truly sends you back to medieval Scotland. In Macbeth’s lair, the mud and wood all heighten this period setting and is juxtaposed by the glory of the King’s castle which all culminates to make a striking film.

Macbeth is perfection. Never once has arse been so poised on edge of a seat with a gaping jaw dangling to the floor than my screening of Macbeth. Kurzel has crafted something insightful and stirring, passionate and devilish, accomplished and authoritative. Demanding your attention from the beginning, Macbeth is a film that is an artistic exploration enhanced by powerful story-telling. With a slow release and competing against the biggest blockbusters, Macbeth should be scene, witnessed, and treasured.


Macbeth is available on Amazon Video!

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