Over the course of history, there have been a number of stories that have managed to create a continued legacy. Adapted many times, these tales have been pursued by a variety of creative minds with different intentions delivered by each of them. Directed by Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth is mesmerising to look at but often difficult to understand due to its use of Shakespearean language. A purely artistic vision from start to finish, this dazzling dreamscape conveyed via convoluted dialogue has considerable merit even if it may not be the best introduction to the world-famous play.
Convinced by a group of witches that they are destined for royalty, a lord and his wife do everything they can to capture the crown. The ensemble is led by Denzel Washington and features Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Harry Melling, Alex Hassell, Kathryn Hunter and Brendan Gleeson.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is first and foremost one of the most visually gorgeous releases in recent memory. Told in black and white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, practically every frame holds an abundance of poetic beauty. The cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, has helped bring to life an iconic story wrapped in a gorgeous nightmare. Although, as unique as the film’s photography is, its core narrative is completely faithful to the original words written by William Shakespeare. With this in mind, it is the script’s authenticity that will make the movie arduous to watch for some.
This feature should not be anyone’s introduction to Macbeth. The dialogue is so intricately antique that many viewers will have a hard time understanding much at all. Many of the principal plot points are still coherent but to decipher the story entirely, you either have to be familiar with the tale beforehand or you need to be paying precise attention to each word being uttered. For this reason, The Tragedy of Macbeth is best suited for those who have read the play or watched a previous adaptation. These individuals will still struggle with the complex dialogue but their knowledge of the narrative will help them focus on the film as a whole and the wonderful performances within it.
While some sections seem rushed, Joel Coen has done a fantastic job crafting a meticulous 105-minute affair. At its strongest, the movie is a beautifully shot display of world-class acting. He may be a Scottish man with an American accent but Denzel Washington delivers a powerhouse performance as the titular protagonist. Frances McDormand is quite effective too but some of the highest praise must be given to Kathryn Hunter. As the ghoulish witches, she establishes a flavour of horror that seeps through the entire story, even if she rarely appears.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a noteworthy movie despite being extremely difficult to follow. For better or worse, this film seems destined to become an adaptation that is adored by teachers and loathed by the students that will be forced to watch it.