I enjoy "fine dining", presenting programs on radios 4MBS, MBS Light and 4RPH and going to drama and music at Brisbane theatres.
Bleak, bloody and brilliant
The film begins and ends with a death and a fire, and a bleak barren landscape. Kurtzel, the Australian film-maker, opens with Macbeth farewelling his young heir and lighting his funeral pyre – the first death and the first fire of many.
This is no constricted stage presentation. The characters at times are dwarved by their setting – an unforgiving barren craggy heath. The battles are choreographed brutality in enveloping mist, with throats copiously cut, and wounds spouting blood. We are shown that victory costs dear, as we see the mangled bodies being buried, and the exhausted victors lying down to rest in garments resembling shrouds.
This is not a feel-good production. The only time that the sun comes out is just after Macbeth is declared King, and he and Lady Macbeth ride towards their castle.
Macbeth encounters the "wyrd women" (no cauldrons or "toil and trouble" here) who tell him that he will become not only "thane of Caldor" but also King. His grieving wife seizes on this foretelling to cajole and goad Macbeth into regicide.
After the deed is done, tormented by guilt, Macbeth struggles to retain his sanity and spirals into more and more murders to keep his throne. Lady Macbeth is confronted by the brutal realities of the slaughter around her, and, overcome by anguish, takes her own life.
After an initial adjustment to Shakespeare's speech rhythms, we come to hear them as if they were normal speech, yet without losing their power and their depth.
Michael Fassbender, as Macbeth, immediately establishes the persona of the strong masculine warrior, torn apart by having violated his own code. Marion Cotillard can communicate powerful emotion with a minimal movement of her face. In this film there are none of the manic rantings which we associate with Lady Macbeth, and the bleakness of her disintegration is all the more powerful for it.
One of the moments we will not forget is Fassbender's horror at the death of his wife, and his agonisingly extended "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech.
David Thewlis, as the assassinated King, convincingly conveys quiet authority, decisiveness, and warmth – someone on whom rests the mantle of the divine right of kings.
This is not a mainstream, safe production of the play. It does take some liberties.
But it has retained the power, the passion, and the anguish of an essentially good person destroyed by doing one bad action, and is a worthy addition to the many great interpretations of a master work.