Going on a Fassbender
Directed: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Elizabeth Debicki
Macbeth has been a regular fixture at the cinema since Orson Welles’s version back in 1948. Polanski made a version in 1971 and there was a version that shifted the action to Melbourne. This year, we have Michael Fassbender, who must win the award for the most bizarrely esoteric CV in Hollywood today. He has played Frank Sidebottom, Steve Jobs and Magneto and now he can add Shakespeare’s tragic Scottish king to his repertoire. The man who starts as a Thane and becomes King of Scotland, beset by tragedy and hubris, is played here with gravitas and subtlety by Fassbender, who at the age of 38 has already proven himself to be arguably one of the greatest actors of his generation. Kurzel’s Macbeth lives in a bleak world, stripped of primary colours and any real sense of hope. Cotillard as the doomed Lady Macbeth is also excellent. Despite what is a pretty thankless role in the story, she does bring some humanity to the part. Sean Harris as Macduff is suitably brutal and brutalised while Paddy Considine is an excellengt Banquo. Macbeth is a brutal film that also manages to be beautiful albeit in a very austere way.
Kurzel’s Macbeth lives in a bleak world, stripped of primary colours and any real sense of hope.
Shot on the Isle of Skye as well as at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland and even in Ely, Cambridgeshire and parts of Surrey, Macbeth is a cinematic experience that gnaws at the viewer under their skin. Despite the fact that this is a story that everyone knows, the director and the cast bring a sense of freshness to the familiarity. The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw and production design by Fiona Crombie mean that this is no theatrical, stagebound production but a full-blooded work of cinema. Reasonably inexperienced Australian director Kurzel brings a power and a ferocity to the story that shows he knows exactly what he is doing. Macbeth deserves a number of Oscar nods in 2016’s nominations and it should bring one for Fassbender himself.
With The Martian and Macbeth this autumn, the end of 2015 is shaping up to be a very interesting period for quality cinema. The king is dead, long live the king…