All you c-section babies can bail, though.
I’ve already written about the new adaptation of The Scottish Play with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in my Cannes Film Festival piece, but today they released the first trailer for Macbeth. It is bleak and gorgeous, offering an aesthetic more similar to the grime of Braveheart than the polish of your standard Shakespearean tragedy (even though sad things happen at the end, it is usually very pretty and opulent in the meantime). This teaser trailer, unnaturally long at nearly two minutes, provides us with an amazing view of the environment of this new Macbeth, gives us a glimpse into the lyricism of the language that will be employed, and is not afraid to show the main characters descend into power lust and madness. This is a perfect preview of the film, and has me even more excited than I was before.
For those of you living under a rock for the last 400 years, Macbeth tells the story of a Scottish duke who is told by three witches that he is destined to be king. This prophecy entices Macbeth to usurp the throne, and he is encouraged by his wife to murder all of those who stand in his way. Even atop the throne, Macbeth fears for his position and must perform more sordid deeds which only increase his sense of guilt and remorse. Eventually he seeks out the witches again who provide him with more prophecies which actually sate his worries (he’s not the smartest, but has gone a little insane by now, to be fair). As with most prophecies, they are rather cryptic and their true meanings reveal a much different outcome than Macbeth expected, so he is doomed and dispatched by a challenger who re-establishes the natural order to the kingdom. Sort of.
It appears as though this adaptation will stick very closely to this basic story arc and expend great effort to create a realistic setting. With adaptations of Shakespeare, you never really know exactly what you are going to get until you see the complete mise-en-scene at work. As a particular example, just look at a few examples of Hamlet: Mel Gibson’s (1990), Kenneth Branaugh’s (1996), and Almereyda’s (2000) (yeah, there were three big-budget Hamlet films in 10 years; four if you count The Lion King, which you shouldn’t). All three use only original lines from the play, but made different choices on precisely what to include, obviously. Gibson and Branaugh both chose the traditional setting, while Almereyda went with a current setting. But even in the traditional setting, Gibson’s Elsinore (the city/castle in Denmark) is much more medieval and gritty, whereas Branaugh’s is more aristocratic and opulent. Each choice informs the technique that a film maker is going to use to tell the story and display the themes of the play, and may highlight certain aspects of the theme over others.
With respect to Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, it looks like we are getting a hyper-realistic view of 11th century Scotland with faithful reproduction of Shakespeare’s lines and an emphasis on political power struggles and harsh brutality. The environment appears cold, dirty, and fierce, which synchs perfectly with themes of raw power and ambition and the danger of their single-minded pursuit. This is definitely not a film to miss if you enjoy Shakespeare in the least, and I hope that the likes of Fassbender and Cotillard can drum up some commercial interest here in the United States, as we do not yet have a set release date for the film (though the UK is set for October 2, so we will probably get it soon after that). Worst-case scenario, I guess I can fly to London to see it with some of my UK readers.