Talking Pictures

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Macbeth, UK/France/USA

Posted by keith1942 on October 20, 2015


I was not really taken with this adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. A couple of the people at the screening were impressed with it and it has enjoyed pretty good reviews. For me it fell between two stools. This was the triumph of technique over character and drama: it did not quite work as a Scottish story but neither as Shakespeare.

The film was shot in colour and full widescreen. The latter choice accentuated certain problems. The film makes extensive use of the Scottish landscapes, but for much of the time it overwhelmed the drama. I noticed a cut from Skye to Glencoe! Films do use different locations but I also noticed that the background varied in certain key sequences.

Then the editing was over the top. We had frequent cuts from scenes to either flashbacks or mental imagery. If it was meant to be Brechtian that is not quite Shakespeare: and neither is montage.

The dialogue was often tricky with the Scottish accents – some good, some less so. But after a while I noticed that the accents diminished when the character was delivering famous lines, such as ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’?

And the dialogue had to compete with an over-the-top accompaniment. Many modern films have scores that I find overly intrusive, and that was the case with this film.

There is an interesting version of Macbeth in here. Both Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are excellent when the film allows. And the supporting cast are generally good. There are some inventive additions. The film  opens with the burial of a child: one of those undeveloped aspects in the original play.

But overall this did not do a lot for me or for Shakespeare, ‘a false creation proceeding from a technique-impressed brain’. Can we have the fine Orson Welles adaptation from 1948 please.



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