PFF24: Macbeth (Justin Kurzel, UK)

Shakespeare adaptations over the years have been both plentiful and subject to singular artistic flourishes, to varying degrees of success. The most recent entry into this canon is Justin Kurzel’s brooding and visually sumptuous Macbeth. Kurzel renders the cautionary tragedy about the toxic allure of ambition and total power as something of a moodily streamlined marvel, omitting small semblances of burdensome exposition in favor of sheer atmosphere and an adherence to character-driven emotionality.

In light of the Shakespearean dialogue clashing with Scottish dialect, Adam Arkapaw’s cinematographic brilliance steals the show and refuses to let up. Macbeth‘s vibrant chameleonic color palette and corresponding sequences are shot through with uncanny aplomb and serve to fully transcend formally stifled norms. From the grandiosity of key battle sequences to subtler character moments, each frame is meticulously constructed and ensures that Kurzel’s film remains both evocative and indicative of the tragedy oozing from the subject matter’s every pore.

Kurzel’s vision as a whole is easily lauded thanks largely to the overarching aesthetic and unsurprisingly noteworthy performances, but technique and ability can only elevate the proceedings so far above how viewers feel about the source material.  The focus on pivotal narrative shifts over rote, entirely reconstructive trappings places an emphasis on these strong suits, of which are more than enough to make Macbeth easy to digest for Shakespeare detractors and those worn out by just the notion of countless predecessors. An appropriately sustained grimness helps to expertly illustrate what the play conveys via text, and although I found myself a tad underwhelmed, you really only come across something this beautifully rendered once in a while.

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