‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ visually stunning, but emotionless | Culture & Leisure
“Macbeth”, the legendary Scottish tragedy written by prolific author William Shakespeare, has been adapted into more than two dozen films since it was first published. The latest film adaptation, “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” invites viewers into a world both familiar and alien, filled to the brim with exquisite sights and sounds meant to capture the imagination.
The story remains the same, including Shakespearean dialect, as Macbeth (Denzel Washington), the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a haunting trio of witches (Kathryn Hunter) that he will one day become the rightful king of ‘Scotland. Consumed by ambition and driven into ruthless action by his wife, Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand), Macbeth assassinates his king and takes the throne for himself.
From visionary and Oscar-winning filmmaker Joel Coen (“No Country for Old Men”), “The Tragedy of Macbeth” resides in an eerie, dreamlike realm all its own; a deep fusion of theater and cinema. Shot entirely in black and white on a Los Angeles soundstage, the entire image feels more like its theatrical roots than the cinematic medium it encompasses.
Despite the theatrical presentation however, the film emits an exuberant cinematic presence like no other thanks to the transfixing, ultra-stylistic, grand production and sound design that would surely have Shakespeare himself in awe and wonder. capricious. The way the whispers and shrieks of dialogue howl and bleed through the screen into your soul is a testament to the sheer ambition and immense talent available to you.
Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (unsurprisingly) are effortlessly extraordinary in lead roles, basking in the scenery and demonstrating a clear, concise mastery of their craft. While everyone will surely notice the above, I must give some much-needed attention to the flawless Kathryn Hunter as a trio of witches who taunt and provoke the Thane of Glamis. The way Hunter so eloquently contorts and alters his physical appearance and dialect is a masterclass in acting. Certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most beautiful supporting roles of the year.
Although stylistically a modern work of art, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” seems undeniably superficial in its rather cynical and confusing core. The film bears thematic similarities to some of Coen’s best works (“Fargo” and “Inside Llewyn Davis”), but sorely lacks emotional resonance or urgency. Simply put, the film is all style and very little substance.
English teachers will surely flock to the cinema eager to present the film to future classes; however, for the vast majority of movie-going audiences, I struggle to see any enthusiasm. I have to admit that I admire and respect the film far more than I enjoyed the feeling of emptiness it left me with at the end credits.
Through intense and seemingly otherworldly production design and masterful compositions, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” proves to be a visceral feast for the senses. Despite the amazing technical prowess on display, the film fails to reach audiences, like me, emotionally and psychologically. A monumental and unique presentation that I implore anyone interested to see for themselves, a film that is nothing more than an exercise in filmmaking. 7 out of 10 thrilling daggers.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.