The Tragedy of Macbeth (Drama, History) [Based on Play] (2021)
Director: Joel Coen
Writer: Joel Coen, William Shakespeare (Based on Play by)
Stars: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Brendan Gleeson
The Thane of Glamis is led astray, promised by a coven of witches that he’ll become the Thane of Cawdor, followed by his ascension to King of Scotland. Heeding this advice influences Thane Macbeth’s character and makes him morally unjust and cruel.
This newest interpretation of the famous play by William Shakespeare has been brought to life by one half of the Coen Brothers, namely Joel Coen. The idea behind him forming this film was first announced in 2019 and would be the first film Joel Coen created by himself, without brother Ethan by his side. Filmed entirely on a soundstage, it’s a deviation from traditional filmmaking and gives ‘’The Tragedy of Macbeth’’ more of a theatre-style aesthetic. IAC Films and A24 produced the film, the latter also distributing it alongside Apple TV+.
To say that ‘’The Tragedy of Macbeth’’ is distinct from traditional films would be an understatement. That is not only due to it being based upon the Shakespearean play but more so due to the unique visual style. Being filmed on a soundstage using minimalistic sets as well as being filmed entirely in black and white creates a surrealistic atmosphere as director Joel Coen intended. The rhymed dialogue adds further to the disparities despite being somewhat much, especially for someone not acquainted with theatre, I’d imagine, which is what could make ‘’The Tragedy of Macbeth’’ difficult to enjoy for some audiences.
It is almost as if ‘’The Tragedy of Macbeth’’ is intentionally underwhelming, despite the huge names involved. Featuring award-winning actors such as Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleeson and Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand. All factors combined, it seems to risk being pretentious to evoke such a different style of filmmaking, which also creates a challenge for the acting, channelling a more theatrical and exaggerated performance.
Performances only improve with time, as the character development, while linear keeps a steady pace towards the picture’s conclusion. Without much room for visual effects, it has some hidden gems of quality that seem to lift it to an even higher level in both artistic worlds it inhabits.
Despite its challenges, and while I stand by my point of being demanding for general film audiences, I’d still dub the theatrical piece coherent and accessible.
All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee!