Consumed by the craze of power, an internal devil thirsty for the blood of superiors and those inferior, a dimly lit soliloquy, channeling the hysteria of a murder. An interpretation of one of The Great Bard’s theatre performances that leaves the audience uncomfortable, yet somewhat wanting more out of the actors and actresses.
Alas, Rupert Goold brings yet another interesting take on the eerie, murderous, adrenaline-filled, gut-wrenching, skin-crawling depiction of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, however reading as an all too over the top, strangely depicted movie on the big screen. To the American eye however, Goold’s use of Patrick Stewart in the lead role of Macbeth, better known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation among diverse and unique actors and actresses lesser known proved to be an obstruction in the success of the film.
“[Macbeth reads] as an all too over the top, strangely depicted movie on the big screen.”
When Macbeth receives a prophecy from the weird sisters, a trio of witches, claiming that one day he will become the King of Scotland, as depicted in a fascist- WWII type reign, a path of tragedy is ahead. Accompanied by his tempting wife, Lady Macbeth (Kate Fleetwood) who consumes the lustrous side of Macbeth in ambition, prompting him to murder King Duncan (Paul Shelley), and provoking suspicion within his newly earned reign. The duo then spiral into a wracking of death-inducing, tragedy-provoking guilt and paranoia, leaving behind a trail of bloodshed, chilling soliloquies, defiance of wiccan-prophecies, and the result of death in each party- with Macbeth himself being beheaded behind-the-scenes by Macduff (Michael Feast).
True to a typical tv-movie premiere, at 160 minutes, in multiple sittings, this film becomes not only increasingly uncomfortable, but dragged out. Sam McCurdy’s cinematography only goes so far, then it is easy to look beyond it. Admittedly, throughout chaotic and/or supernatural scenes, the blue light and lens flares does an outstanding job of bringing chaos to life, however the extreme soundtrack takes away from these critical scenes- overwhelming rather than impressing. In scenes concerning the supernatural essence of the witches, the cinematography does an outstanding job of capturing their volatile existence, but the modern editing seems highly unfitting to the era the movie is placed in. This adds on to the awkwardness of the movie, because although the idea of the cinematography is brilliant, the conflict of the time era, along with the overdramatized and unfitting characteristics of the actor and actresses simply makes the overall result feel ‘incorrect.’
“This adds on to the awkwardness of the movie, because although the idea of the cinematography is brilliant, the conflict of the time era, along with the overdramatized and unfitting characteristics of the actor and actresses simply makes the overall result feel ‘incorrect.’”
However, there was one actor that set himself apart among the cast, Michael Feast, whose role as Macduff, a father who had lost everything to the terror of Macbeth was very well portrayed, yet since it was the only role that seemed as so, it tends to dislocate itself from the rest of the cast. Feast’s executive-like appearance gave a fitting contrast to the pain he held within himself. Frankly, Feast is the only actor who fittingly uses his emotion throughout lines to show an internal struggle or emotion- rather than making the audience cringe. In the final scene where Macduff said, “Hail, king! for so thou art: behold, where stands. The usurper’s cursed head: the time is free: I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s pearl, that speak my salutation in their minds; whose voices I desire aloud with mine: hail, King of Scotland!” Feast greatly uses his painstaking gasps perfectly between lines, which is a pro to the over-dramatized scene, however the separation of his role proves to be a downfall of the cast.
“Frankly, Feast is the only actor who fittingly uses his emotion throughout lines to show an internal struggle or emotion- rather than making the audience cringe.”
With a high concentration of weak areas, it is not to say that in the main characters, there were areas of brilliance as well. Fleetwood and Stewart, together use their oddity to feed the evolution of their relationship from irresistible (and uncomfortable) attraction to sharp repulsion. In terms of a strong scene with the main role, Goold’s use of a kitchen served well. One scene within the kitchen channels Macbeth’s bloodthirst, a stark contrast from the normality of a kitchen- where he orders murders to take the life of his dear friend Banquo (Martin Turner). Both these aspects show the progression of Stewart’s character, but scenes like this are a minor part of the production- and do not bring home the gold.
In terms of Stewart and Fleetwood, their relationship as lead characters is an odd pairing, that simply doesn’t do the roles justice. Stewart himself has too hardy of an appearance to be playing the emotional role of Macbeth, whereas Fleetwood herself just does not do her ethereal feminine roll fair play. Focusing on the role of Macbeth, there are two main issues with Stewart’s portrayal: his lack of dramatic facial expression- this leaves viewers wanting more, or simply confused since the Shakespearean language does not covey much to modern day ears. Secondly, how Stewart played the role itself- there are hints of Stalinism within Macbeth’s reign, however, this new format although very well showing bloodshed within his dictatorship, Stewart himself is weak in the fact that he can’t get down the mix of cold bloodshed with emotional craze, he seems numb, and nothing more. Fleetwood’s downfall comes in her masculinity and bizarreness- although she very well shows affection in the right places and deep emotion in the other places, her gasping throughout her lines, and wide, almost crackhead-like eyes accompanied by her rough, masculine, jawline, just does not prove fitting to her ‘delicate but bloodthirsty wife’ role. Rather, her crazed soliloquies and body language that reads: “Hi, if you get in my way I may slit your throat,” simply startling rather than giving her role due justice. The pairing had all the ability to be strong, but because of uncontrollable traits to their acting, the duo fell short of a strong depiction.
“Fleetwood’s downfall comes in her masculinity and bizarreness- although she very well shows affection in the right places and deep emotion in the other places, her gasping throughout her lines, and wide, almost crackhead-like eyes accompanied by her rough, masculine, jawline, just does not prove fitting to her ‘delicate but bloodthirsty wife’ role.”
Goold’s Macbeth serves as a unique interpretation of the longstanding Shakespeare favorite, but it’s stark contrast in depiction from the original film serves as not only a confusing format, but a painstakingly long and uncomfortable film. Although it has areas of brilliance in the cinematography, and some scenes of Stewart and Fleetwood reflect a perfect sculpture of their bloody reign, the only minimal lead role that fits well is Feast’s. With clashing roles to startling speeches, the pieces of the movie that shined are shadowed. When looking for a true bloody tragedy with crazed soliloquies and bloodshed, look no further than the original film, which preserves Shakespeare vibes. Within this film however, the mixture of emotions all so well comes together to show that this portrayal of Macbeth simply had too many unique actors and actresses, which clashed with the originality of classic Shakespeare.