(Robbie Collin’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/23.)
Justin Kurzel’s blistering, blood-sticky new screen version of Macbeth unseams the famous Shakespearean tragedy open from the nave to the chops, letting its insides spill out across the rock underfoot. Kurzel’s chilling debut feature, the 2011 true-crime thriller Snowtown, suggested the then-37-year-old Australian filmmaker was a talent to watch. But this towering, consistently ingenious film establishes him as a director to cherish.
Built around a pair of cosmically powerful performances from Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, Kurzel’s film, which has had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, retains the play’s Scottish Middle Ages setting and some of Shakespeare’s words.
But the pared-down adaptation by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Leslie and Todd Louiso feels jagged and spare – the bleached, modernist carcass of the original verse – while the sheer innovation of the staging lends a flesh-creeping freshness to every familiar toss and turn of Shakespeare’s plot. Tonally, it is far closer to the fractured poetry of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land than Game of Thrones, yet the battle sequences have a serious, blockbuster beauty and heft, with thunderous, slow-motion combat backlit by blood-red sun rays, mist and smoke.