Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is like looking at Shakespeare through a cloudy glass. Filmed like a play, the shooting was all done on a cavernous sound stage in black and white. Coen did not update the dialogue, but with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as Macbeth and his Lady the meaning comes off crisp and clear. Washington starts out unsure, but grows in confident delivering a powerful performance. McDormand is calculating, but spirals into insanity so convincingly. I am a huge fan of Kathryn Hunter who plays all three of the witches known as the “Weird Sisters,” but her and Coen’s take on it it seriously creepily odd and more like “Lord Of The Rings.”
Coen uses fog as a character so we feel constantly as if we were in a dream state. It takes awhile to get involved and at times the actors speak as if in whisper. If you don’t know this play or the storyline I suggest reading it before you watch.
Strong performances also come from the always wonderful Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan. His murder is a macabre dance of intimacy. Gleeson is a staple at the Old Vic. Bertie Carvel as Banquo, Stephen Root as Porter and Alex Hassel as Ross also give their all.
Stellar work by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel as well as the visual effects and sound crews and editors.
This is one moody film and I look forward to seeing it on stage this coming season.