sábado, fevereiro 20, 2016

"Non-Macbeth" by Justin Kurzel

At the beginning of 2016, one of the plays I wanted to re-read was Macbeth, anticipating the arrival of this particular movie, but so much hype for so little gain. I did re-read the play.

(Taken from my A. L. Rowse edition)

Acting Shakespeare, in many ways, is no different than any other kind of movie. Nevertheless, because of the complexity and entanglement of the primary text it requires a more profound inspection by the director (and actor). It is almost another language, as I’ve stated many times. Yet it cannot be performed as such. The text on screen must fall onto the ears of the audience with absolute clarity. Meaning no mumbling and whispering please. I’ve been reading and studying Shakespeare for many years, and I think there is no definitive guide on how to act his texts. Shakespeare left us only his plays as a guide and so as I read (and see) more about Shakespeare, it’s fundamental for the actor to keep in mind his natural instincts. The struggle with Shakespeare is not just unpacking the language, but finding a compelling reason for performing him in the first place. While the finesse of the language is unique, his examination of the human condition and progressive understanding of gender and politics have made him just as relevant as when he began writing. I think if some directors and screen writers were made more aware of this, they would probably be less hesitant to put in the work required for really reading his plays.

(Taken from my A. L. Rowse edition)

(Taken from my A. L. Rowse edition)

First of all, Kurzel’s version is a botched up attempt at reinterpreting Macbeth. I’m not talking about beautiful views of locations, nice details of costume, or some analysis of the horrors of post-traumatic stress on soldiers. I’m talking about poor delivery of lines, jumbled direction of key scenes, and the almost cursory editing of some of the more thoughtful interludes of the play. The words are completely lost. The actors could have been reading the shopping list. It would've had the same emotional impact, which would be none. The actors. Marion Cotillard is simply awful. Fassbender is only marginally better. What’s with all the mumbling?? Clear delivery of lines if you please! Do people actually speak like this? Cut to the bone with virtually no emotional depth. Also most of the characters seem utterly interchangeable. I had never seen this kind of filming of a Shakespeare movie adaptation. Whispering in each actors’ faces?? When a movie like this resorts to almost exclusively to using slow-motion and CGI in the action scenes, something is deadly wrong. On top of that, the constant throb of dark morose music almost drove me mad…

At the end of the movie, in the credits part, I was surprised by the “based on a play by William Shakespeare”. Indeed. No Porter scene, virtually no witches, poor portrayal and changed sequence of apparitions, etc. When one is reluctant to let Shakespeare's words speak for themselves, invents text lines, withholds key speeches (presumably to allow more time for long-winded fight scenes), changes original “scenes” completely around, all is said and done as far as I’m concerned. Although spectacular in terms of the use of the gorgeous natural scenery, this movie is a sorry excuse for a Shakespeare adaptation. Right after watching this, I just had to re-watch Branagh’s version at the National Theatre in 2013 in Manchester, as well as spending a happy evening re-reading once again the original to get the taste of the film out of my mind.

Fortunately I didn't have to walk out of the movie theatre, but I was spitting mad nevertheless. How dare they produce such a mockery of such a brilliant play? Seldom have I come across such shockingly and dull Shakespeare direction and production. Please don't inflict this on your loved ones, friends or family unless they are suffering from wakefulness.

And the amazing thing about acting in a Shakespeare play, whatever part an actor plays, whether he's the nastiest guy in the world like Macbeth, he or she has to take his or her tiny self and make it big to match the character. The actor should feel himself inflating, because it's much bigger than anyone could ever have imagined. And it'll always be too big for the actors, as it’s the case here, but it's great trying to reach for the heights even when we don’t succeed.

NB: Compare the way the two versions depict the Duncan’s murder at the hands of Macbeth. I thought it was absolutely the right decision to show Macbeth murdering Duncan in both versions, but the way it’s done in Branagh’s versions is much more poignant: after Duncan awakes, he holds his hand out to Macbeth's cheek as if to touch it, showing the regard in which he holds him. Macbeth visibly hesitates for a moment, before realising he has to do it and plunge the blade in. The way it’s done in Kurzel’s version I thought for a moment that I was watching one of the Scream movies…

NB: For me, Macbeth without the porter scene is not really Macbeth. If I want to watch Macbeth, I want to watch the play, not something else. The porter scene, for me, is what defines Macbeth, but that’s for another post. Bottom-line:

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