'Macbeth' is faithfully Shakespearean


Man, what a doozey. I’m not going to pretend that I can fully understand Shakespeare. His words are too poetic for my inadequate mind to grasp, but the film makes it so that I could absorb enough of it from the context. Both in setting, imagery and the acting, one could better appreciate Macbeth’s spellbinding dialogue.

I…honestly didn’t know 'Macbeth'. (Please don’t judge me.) And I didn’t do any research beforehand, so I could avoid any potential “spoilers”. I knew his name, and I maaaaybe read a synopsis once or twice in the VERY distant past, but for all intents and purposes, I had no clue what the story was going in to this movie.


For all who (like me) don’t know the story of 'Macbeth', or have forgotten for some reason, well Macbeth is a Scottish warrior promised by these ominous supernatural women that he would rise in ranks and eventually become King. Events unfold that make him believe that the women’s prophecies would come true, but in his haste and thirst for crown and power, Macbeth, once a valiant and honorable warrior, becomes a mad, egomaniacal, and murderous shell of his old self.

King None
The infamous prophecies.

'Macbeth'’s is a tragic tale of greed, corruption and self-destruction. It was hard to keep up with story because of the language, but I did it! I understood it! *applauds self*

I thought this 2015 film would be a modernized rendition of the story, but I was surprised to see that it was actually the original play’s dialogue given a contemporary visual take. And Shakespeare is such a difficult genre. I remember back in school when we’d need to read and report on a monologue (A SINGLE MONOLOGUE), it would take me multiple passes to even BARELY comprehend what was being said! Now I’m not particularly slow (at least, I hope I’m not), I like to think I can identify a literary piece’s meaning and subtext with ease, but Shakespeare is such a high form of art that you never fully get the entirety of its meaning in one sitting (or ever, really), which ultimately made it difficult for me to truly enjoy the film. Even with the subtitles, it became taxing to try to absorb every word and every verse. Watching 'Macbeth' was almost like watching a film in a different language! ‘Coz that’s Shakespeare; it’s practically alien!

Couple Lady

Okay, I sound like I’m being defensive about my incompetence. Maybe I am; maybe Shakespeare is just too highbrow for me and I’m not its market. But this is MY review, so you can suck it! (I kid; I love all my readers…all 7 of you.) I will say a couple of undeniable things about this film though: 1) the visuals were exquisite! And 2) the acting was superb! If not for both, I wouldn’t have been able to get the story and write that very accurate summary I did above.


The most glaring takeaway from ‘Macbeth’ is its striking visuals. The framing and composition, the cinematography, the production quality were perfection! If there was a visual equivalent to the poetry of Shakespeare as a language, then ‘Macbeth’ would be it. I can’t even begin to imagine how long it must’ve taken to plan all those scenes because every single shot was like a war photo or a beautiful painting. I kid you not.

Not a promotional poster; this is an actual scene!

With the dialogue being inherently inaccessible, this is the kind of movie where the actors bear the full weight of communicating what was happening in a scene. Their physicality – the body language, the peculiar twitches, the subtle facial variations, and even the actors’ make up – is what I’m left with when I could not rely on the dialogue for comprehension. But Michael Fassbender, who plays the titular character, and Marion Cotillard, who plays his wife, both performed magnificently! Macbeth’s transformation / decent into madness was cuttingly represented by Fassbender’s passionate showing. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth’s malice and consequent remorse were spotlessly established by Cotillard. Both had a boiling intensity charging their delightfully dark performances and this makes 'Macbeth' (2015) one of their best work in recent years. In a film where words are difficult to understand, their actions definitely spoke louder than the words.

The Coo-coo King.
But even though I couldn’t completely capture the meaning of the lines with the way they’re structured, how they spoke them was nothing short of exquisite. It made me go “I’m not sure what he just said, but that was amazing!” as Fassbender and Cotillard delivered lines with authority and regal eloquence.

King and Queen

For someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy Shakespeare, the film still strikes me for its visual and dramatic command. If I wasn't so preoccupied with trying to understand every line of the dialogue, I may have appreciated it much more. On the other hand, someone who’s already familiar with the play and could focus on the aesthetics would likely love this very faithful rendition of the immortal Shakespearean play.

Hail Macbeth
Hail, Macbeth!

Macbeth (2015)’s dialogue is inaccessible for Shakespeare neophytes, but it still beats reading the play on your own. At least this way, you get an idea of how it’s supposed to be spoken. (Just re-read the material after being primed by the film!) The soulful performances, the mesmerizing visuals and the majesty of its direction and presentation makes ‘Macbeth’ a must-watch for Shakespeare-lovers and those looking to become/pretending to be one.



*First seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles!

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