Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth
Belatedly following up on the last blog to say that the Justin Kurzel film of Macbeth was quite brilliant. It was amazing to see how many original interpretations of the text there were in the film when on stage it’s performed again and again with a strange uniformity as if there was no new way to present each scene and no room whatsoever for directorial flare. The success of these bold reinterpretations owed little to the advantages film has over stage production, but was down, in large part, to the writers’ extraordinary knowledge of the text itself and consequently their sure sense of what would and what wouldn’t work. The list of these innovations (and insights) is long, but stand-outs for me were Malcolm witnessing Macbeth’s murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth making her ‘out, damned spot’ speech to a ghost child, the hallucinatory dagger being carried by a dead soldier, and Birnam forest coming to Dunsinane in the form of ashes from a fire. My special favourite was Macbeth twisting his dagger on Lady Macbeth’s barren belly while he plots the murder of Banquo and his son, Fleance (Stephen Wall, my old university tutor, would have loved this piece of stage craft). Theatre directors should watch this film and weep – and then steal as many of the ideas as they can for future productions. Bold imaginings like this, based on fingertip knowledge of the texts, will keep old Shakey in fashion for another four hundred years.
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