Saturday, September 10, 2016
MACBETH (2015): THE THANE OF CAWDOR TOOK A SNOOZE
Fassbender as Macbeth plays the entire movie on one monotonous note without the hint of an emotional character arc or any internal turmoil whatsoever; he starts off the movie as a sociopathic cold fish and stays that way throughout the movie. It's Macbeth as automaton rather than a good man turned to evil by a fatal character flaw. Lady Macbeth, one of the most powerfully ambitious and manipulative of all Shakespeare's characters, here has absolutely no charismatic, seductive influence upon her husband in Marion Cotillard's equally one-note performance. Having seen both actors in other movies, I can only surmise that the performance choices here were imposed upon the actors deliberately by the director; maybe Kurzel was insecure about the Shakespearean language coming across as comical. Well, the endlessly earnest whispering going on in scene after scene DOES become laughable after about 15 minutes and the complete lack of any identifiable character takes one completely out of the movie before too long. Again, the total lack of inner conflict shown in Macbeth's character creates a listless, matter-of-fact quality to the proceedings: the 3 witches prophecy Macbeth will become king, he comes home and tells his wife, they say "Hey, let's kill Duncan", he goes and does it -- all without any soul-searching anguish or one iota of suspense, guilt or panic. All this reduces one of the Bard's most visceral and tormented tales to a dull, "Who cares what happens" slog.
It seems to me that one of the most interesting and purposeful themes in Shakespeare's Scottish play is the fact that a relatively nice bloke like Macbeth and his presumably normal good lady wife can, through a set of fatal character flaws like ambition or the ability to be easily led, can quite quickly ruin their lives before they even know it. The relative flood of positive reviews for this film admittedly bewilder me; were they watching the same film I was?!?! The above poster, which points out that the film's producers are the same as brought us the equally over-praised and lackluster THE KING'S SPEECH was perhaps a warning that went unheeded in my case. The air of "this is a SERIOUS PRODUCTION" hangs over Kurzel's MACBETH like a dagger of the mind which apparently hoodwinked some reviewers that this was a good film. In Fassbender's and Cotillard's -- well, let's face it -- lackluster performances, they make the Thane of Cawdor and his wife appear like they've already seen the play MACBETH and are going through the motions by rote. Watching Kurzel's film reminded me of sitting in a high school English class while the teacher made teenagers read aloud from the text; not exactly the makings of great cinematic drama!