It’s a Macbeth-off
I really wish someone had done a simulcast of the Macbeth adaptation starring James McAvoy. It got great reviews and McAvoy, a Scot and an actor who does such a killer job communicating suffering is, like, textbook Macbeth. McAvoy’s Macbeth was, by all accounts, an exceptional performance and production. I’ve seen several cool opera performances from the Met via cinema simulcast I would not have gotten to see otherwise, as well as the broadcast of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, which was awesome. I know it’s not the same as being in the theater for the live performance, but with the technology we have now, it’s ridiculous to not make this stuff available worldwide.
Apparently the producers from See Saw and Film4 agree, because they’ve packaged a new screen adaptation of Macbeth to sell at Cannes. These are the producers who made Shame, Hunger, and the Irish comedy Frank, which means that Michael Fassbender will be playing Macbeth. Justin Kurzel, who wrote and directed the brutal Australian crime drama Snowtown, is set to direct, and the producers are selling this project as ready to go at the end of the year, after Fassbender is done with X-Men: Way Too Many People. The early description highlights the original, Shakesperian setting of the 11th century and makes a point of featuring Macbeth’s (justified) reputation as Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. So it’s going to be a medieval gorefest.
I don’t have a problem with this as 1) given the popularity of the McAvoy production, which was set in a dystopic future civil war, bringing a modernized Macbeth to film right now will look like plagiarism, and 2) anything that gets people to watch Shakespeare is at least halfway okay in my book. But I also can’t forget that terrible Julie Taymor Titus, which was completely over the top in every way, not the least of which was violence and gore.
Macbeth is gruesome—that’s part of the story. But there’s a difference between using visual language and exploiting visuals. I’m with Lainey—Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was brilliant at combining Shakespeare’s words with a modern visual setting and style. And if I had my druthers, if I could only see one version, I’d much rather see McAvoy’s futuristic civil war Macbeth. But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be value in a medieval version. I just hope they’re not using Macbeth as an excuse to run around Scotland, hacking people’s heads off as blood sprays artfully across the frame because Fassbender already made that movie and it was called Centurion and it was f*cking terrible.