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Laramie Movie Scope: Macbeth

An old story given new light

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 9, 2016 -- The Tragedy of Macbeth by Shakespeare, has been adapted for movies many times, four times in the past two years in fact, so it behooves filmmakers to do something different to set each version apart in some way. This one does it with some interesting fantasy sequences, dream effects, slow motion, stop motion effects, performance choices, scene choices and brilliant color used in the film's final scenes.

The award-winning actor Michael Fassbender (“Steve Jobs”) gives a powerful performance as Macbeth in this film. Lady Macbeth, his wife, is played by renowned French actress Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”). In this film, Lady Macbeth is played in a more sympathetic manner than she is in some productions.

Macbeth encounters witches accompanied by children on his battlefield of victory with fellow general Banquo (Paddy Considine “Cinderella Man”) the Thane of Lochaber. The witches tell Macbeth that he will be king of Scotland, and that Banquo's ancestors will be kings, though he will not be a king himself. When Lady Macbeth learns of this prophecy, she talks her husband into assassinating King Duncan, so that he can seize the throne. Macbeth agrees and carries out the deed.

The way the witches are portrayed along with children is one of the things that sets this production apart from some others. In one scene, one witch is holding an infant. The scenes are played in a mist, or foggy setting. The witches are also involved in another scene in which Banquo's child, Fleance, escapes assassination. It appears the witches help him escape. Fleance, by the way, was thought to have been an ancestor of King James I, who was King of England and Scotland during Shakespeare's time.

When Macbeth becomes King of Scotland, his troubles are just beginning. Worried about the prophecies of the witches, he arranges for the assassination of Banquo and tries to kill Fleance, too. He also arranges to kill Macduff (Sean Harris of “Serena” 2014). Each murder leads to more murders, as Macbeth is transformed from a moral man into a monster.

Macduff escapes to England, along with King Duncan's son, and vows revenge when he learns that Macbeth has burned Macduff's wife and children at the stake. These deaths haunt Lady Macbeth. Both she and Macbeth are haunted by the ghosts of those they have killed. Macduff and King Duncan's son return to Scotland with an English army.

The final battle between Macbeth and Macduff is framed in smoke and fire from a burning forest (the ash, falling on Macbeth fulfills the prophecy “Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane”). The brilliant red and orange background, with the foreground clouded by smoke, looks otherworldly. This is an unusual choice for this act, but it works very well. There is another small surprise at the end.

This is a powerful, well acted and directed (Justin Kurzel) adaptation, which gives unusual depth to the character of Lady Macbeth. It also gives more than usual force to the play's message about the evil and corruption which can result from great ambition. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)