Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Macbeth" (2015)

Contrary to popular opinion, Shakespeare’s plays do not automatically make for a great film. It is possible to take his masterpieces and screw up royally. His plays are about more than just genius-level writing. More than words. Great interpretations communicate the essence of the story. Poor ones make a mess of style over substance. Just take last year’s Macbeth as an example.

It looks as though the filmmakers said to themselves, “Yeah, Macbeth is good, but surely we can make it better!” So they went about making their changes.

They added in a lot of battle footage that in the play happens off-screen. That in and of itself may not have been a bad thing, but they washed the colors out, did way too much super-slow motion, and presented fighting that was like a cypher, stand-in for actual battle. There was no storyline through the fighting scenes. We are not given a reason to care about what is happening. Then they added in a “score” that consisted mostly of a cello droning back and forth between two notes for the entire film. That combined with the stylized, washed-out cinematography served as a sort of sleep-inducer.

Then they chopped up Shakespeare’s drama and re-sequenced a bunch of the dialogue. They place things in contexts that change the plot a bit. And, someone decided since this is a Scottish story, everyone should talk in a (presumably) Scottish accent that sounded mostly like mumbling. Why make Shakespeare’s words intelligible?

Perhaps worst of all was this film’s little innovation. It seems every Shakespeare adaptation has to reimagine at least one scene in a new, heretofore unthought-of way. This one decided that Act 1 Scene vii, where Lady Macbeth dissuades her husband’s second thoughts with clever words (as you would expect in Shakespeare), they should add a little extra flair. So they imply that she convinces him with all those words WHILE ENGAGING IN A LITTLE QUICKIE. Sound stupid? It is. Instead of her persuasive ability to use language, they imply that he gives in because she is using her sexuality to bewitch him.

It is a shame that this film adaptation was so bad, because it is an important story. This generation needs to see more examples of bad decisions having devastating consequences on those who engage in them.

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