Cannes 2015: The curse of Macbeth is confirmed (review)

” Fair is foul, and foul is fair” foretell the three witches in “Macbeth”’s first act and they are right. Despite the expectations for its  adaptation by the talented Justin Kurzel, starring two important actors, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the Scottish King drowns ingloriously in the darkness.

General Macbeth, cousin of the Scottish King Duncan, stands loyal next to the side of the ruler, fighting off conspirators, in a seemingly never-ending bloody civil war. After a victorious battle, shortly before returning triumphant with his friend and comrade Banquo, Macbeth encounters three witches, who prophesy that he will become king – like the descendants of Banquo. The childless and always wronged by fate Macbeth is seduced: his time may have finally come. Confessing the prophecy to his wife, Lady Macbeth puts dark thoughts in his mind: kill Duncan, conspire against the worthy heirs and become himself King. Macbeth becomes blinded by his ambition and executes his wife’s evil plan. However, as soon as his plan is successful and he sits on the throne, the real ordeal begins: on the one hand, the pleasure of power and on the other, the insecurity that someone will steal it from him; as a result, Macbeth turns into a tyrant. He murders in cold blood anyone who considers a threat, but his mind continues creating more and more “threats” which haunt him in a deterministic, Sisyphean way. Lady Macbeth loses her mind out of guilt and commits suicide, while the Scottish King loses his throne and his head …

“Macbeth” is one of the last (and shortest) plays of Shakespeare, which was written at a time of great crisis – economic, moral, political. It was the era of the “Gunpowder Plot” and Shakespeare wanted to capture the primeval human meanness as the timeless reason of major crimes. People are not divided into “good” and “bad”. The endless ambition, combined with deep-rooted insecurity, may turn anyone into a criminal. Macbeth becomes a monster because power is addictive.


It is no coincidence, therefore, that this specific Shakespearean play has been used in the most theatrical performances and film adaptations than any other of the bard’s later period. Macbeth is a character relevant to our  corrupt times while Lady Macbeth has emerged over the years as one of the most emblematic, complex female heroines.

No wonder then that Australian director Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders”) wanted to measure himself against the classic text and Michael Fassbender accepted the challenge to wear the heavy armour and even heavier shadow of the hero, while Marion Cotillard immersed herself in the role of Lady Macbeth with the fragile strength that characterizes her.


But we do wonder why such a promising project fails to add anything to the cinematic (but also theatrical, of course) debate that “Macbeth” has opened with the audience over the decades. From Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa to Roman Polanski and Trevor Nunn, great, medium, smaller filmakers have attempted classic, modern or postmodern versions of the play. Kurzel comes from an Australian cinematic tradition where  the imagery is uncompromisingly raw as far as the display of violence is concerned and remains “truthful” to the nature of barbaric times. And this is something the film accomplishes: the film begins and ends in battlefields where bodies collide with demonic energy while stamina is tested mercilessly.

This helps us understand the historical, social and geographical context. The way Kurzel sets the action in the wilderness of Scotland is excellent. The heroes are set in contrast to the menacing cliffs, the rugged mountains, the infertile plains, the cold. Man is very small and insignificant, but this does not prevent him from considering himself king of the world.


Beyond that, however, we lose interest in the film quickly. The Shakespearean language seems like an end in itself. The actors articulate it as if they were reciting, while Kurzel doesn’t have any ideas that create authentic intensity, emotion, deep understanding of the characters and their dilemmas. He tries instead with stylized imagery to move among all the concepts of the play, among the real and the supernatural, life and death, conflict, betrayal, darkness, madness. These, however, the viewer can only observe, but cannot feel. If you do not happen to know “Macbeth” from before, you do not understand much.

There is a notorious “curse” that accompanies “Macbeth”’s productions through the years. The artists believe that they will jinx their production just by uttering the name “Macbeth” so they sometimes refer to it indirectly – ‘The Scottish Project “, “MacBee”, “Mr. and Mrs. M”or” The Scottish King. ” And the reason for this is that, according to legend, Shakespeare used real spells in his text, and supposedly in this way he angered the witches making them to curse any production of it. We will blame it on that then. Because we were really looking forward to seeing the pair of Fassbender – Cotillard interpret with talent and charm , this ‘Freudian’ couple – in  essence one character divided into two persons. We were also hoping that Kurzel would explore with a fresh, contemporary look the misery of human nature and its trivial goals. It is a pity. It would be better if we just revisited the “Throne of Blood”. ” Fair is foul, and foul is fair/ Hover through the fog and filthy air”.

The 68th Cannes Festival is held from 13 to 24 May. Flix is ​​there to inform you live about everything that happens, as it happens in the constantly updated special section of Flix.