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The Fassbender Macbeth Justin Kurzel’s new presentation of Macbeth is a stunning and original interpretation.
The play is well known yet every element has been reimagined and the viewer is treated to a powerful and satisfying experience.
Visually, the film is extraordinary. The battle scenes are brutal and shocking. The director uses a realist approach which emphasises the harshness and ruthlessness of this world. The shots of the landscape evoke desolation. Each of the settings is not simply a backdrop to the action, but functions more like a character in its right. The most effective and interesting camera work creates the wonderful interpretations of familiar scenes. To avoid spoilers I will simply say that key scenes in the play, such as Macbeth’s vision of the dagger, the brilliant interpretation of Birnam Wood’s encroachment on Dunsinane, or the deaths of Lady Macduff and her children, are brilliant. Each of the soliloquys is skilfully reimagined.
Of particular note are the images of children throughout the film. The opening scene shows Macbeth and Lady Macbeth burying a child and children’s faces are a key focus in many scenes. The horrific effects of this society on its children are foregrounded. We are familiar with images of child victims of war and of child soldiers. These are re-conctextualised in Macbeth, making a powerful statement about war. This is also one of the keys to Fassbener’s Macbeth, who is grim and smouldering. We see a man who has had some element of his soul and his humanity, ripped from him.
Comparisons with Polanski’s Macbeth are inevitable. Both interpretations are brilliant. Where Fassbender broods, Jon Finch rages. Both films are dark and Gothic. The imagery in Kurzel’s version adds fire and flames as a significant symbol. The dialogue in this interpretation has been pared back, and some viewers may be disappointed at what has been left out. But the film more than makes up for this with its stunning visuals which give a strong impression of medieval Scotland; a world both familiar and alien. The changes made to the story and the scenes that have been added all enhance its meaning. Like the Polanski, this film uses an eerie and haunting soundtrack to great effect.