6 March 2016

Bloody Bold And Resolute?

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Since studying Macbeth in primary school I can't help but observe how fucking dull our current Royal Family is. Macbeth is about one mad bastard's grab for power after some local hags have put the idea into his head and his wife has started nagging him. Sure their ambitions might cause them to get a little stabby as they both turn into a couple of kill-crazy fucknuggets, but at least they're doing something interesting. I mean don't get me wrong.. I'm aware that Charles also became heir to the thrown whilst covered in blood, but that wasn't so much due to a violent battle as it was having just been birthed out of the Queen's vagina. Throughout this story Macbeth and Lady Macbeth succumb to their own bat-shittery until all around them are disillusioned, dead, or seeking revenge, but at least they've obviously been busy. The only thing that people tell me our current Royal Family do is to help bring in the tourism, but how do they do that? In this version of Macbeth the title character draws a crowd by setting an entire family on fire for no good reason and yet I've never even seen our Queen even take a fucking selfie.

Of course there have been many cinematic versions of Macbeth over the years with the most famous examples probably being by Welles, Kurosawa, and Polanski. However although each one has its own merits, it'd be fair to say that none are completely perfect. Welles's version was compromised by a limited budget; Kurosawa's featured a weak performance from its leading lady; and Polanski's co-starred Keith fucking Chegwin. What this latest version from director Justin Kurzel intends to do is to ground the story in a more gritty, grim, depressing world, whilst placing more emphasis on Macbeth's already fucked up head. Or to say that more simply.. he wants to make it even more Scottish. Is Macbeth going mad as a consequence of his murderous ways or is it simply because he exists in a Scotland before the invention of heroin? Either way, I'd have to say that this is by far the most extraordinary version of Macbeth that I've ever seen. And I say that as somebody who was once taken on a school trip to see what surprised us all by being a musical version of this play. Fassbender was obviously phenomenal here, but you really haven't seen fear and regret in any Macbeth's eyes until he opens his mouth to sing and about four-hundred school children proceed to die of fucking laughter.

Whereas previously the witches of Macbeth have been a little fairy-tale like in their depiction, here they remain kind of questionable, which is presumably due to Kurzel's desire to bring grit to the story. As such, it kind of occurred to me that rather than being anything supernatural, the hags of this film could really just be a little coven of shit-stirrers. You know the scene in The Matrix in which The Oracle tells Neo to “mind the vase” causing him to turn around and smash it? Well, the whole film kind of plays out a little like that. What should really bake Macbeth's noodle later on is, would he still have killed the king if they hadn't said anything? However, the hags have also got an element of Obi-Wan Kenobi about them in the sense that a lot of what they say is a complete pile of total shit.. from a certain point of view. Thanks to their advice, Macbeth is under the impression that he can't be killed by anyone that's born of woman. However when he does meet his match, the 'get out clause' is that said person was “from his mothers womb, untimely ripped”. Now I'll admit that a caesarian birth might mean that the baby avoids a slide through the beef curtains.. but unless said rival was the baby in the 1994 film Junior and his mother was Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger, then I'd say he was still born of woman.

However if Kurzel wants to ground his story, then I suppose the idea that a few bitches presenting themselves as psychics whilst only giving bland, ambiguous statements is fairly believable. The only thing out of place with that is that they're standing around on the moors instead of looking for dim, vulnerable people at the local pub. Though having said that, the angle that this film is going for is in placing more emphasis on Macbeth's already broken mind. Previously it's been his demented wife that's encouraged his nuttiness, however Kurzel seems to have had the crazy idea that losing a child and being forced to stab people in battle might be enough to make a man at least a little kooky. As such, the grieving father that's suffering from PTSD is basically the perfect victim for a group of Psychic Sally-like charlatans to exploit. The benefit of putting more of an emphasis on Macbeth is that the film isn't simply going over old ground, and it also allows Fassbender to deliver a Scanners-style, mind-blowingly brilliant performance. If you only know him as the man with the shiny purple helmet with X-Men's Magneto and Shame's sex addict, then this will be an eye opening experience for you. Well maybe not as eye-opening as Shame was but he's still pretty great.

The downside to putting more humanity into the character of Macbeth seems that, as a result, Lady Macbeth gets a little put on the back-burner. It's not that this is a problem for this version of the story, but rather that it just seems a little bit odd considering the general lack of prominent female roles, the brilliance of actress Marian Cotillard, and the fact that Lady Macbeth is one of the most iconic characters of all fucking time. It'd be a bit like doing a brilliant remake of The Muppets and putting more emphasis on Miss Piggy and less on Kermit. It's not that people wouldn't enjoy the film I'm sure.. but as with the leading French actress here, we'd all all just be left wondering why they'd decided to sideline the frog. However if you didn't know anything about the play before seeing this movie then you probably wouldn't think anything of it when watching because it's not like this version doesn't work. You could even argue that reducing a great actor's role is less damaging to the final product than emphasising the performance of a bad one, as was done in Kurosawa's Throne Of Blood. Also based on Macbeth, that version's leading lady is literally about as convincing as that tatty, golden merkin on Donald Trumps head, and as a result is as tedious as the man himself.

It's also worth noting that like the reptilian faces beneath the human masks of our actual Royal Family, Macbeth is extraordinary to look at. In terms of the battles, it's a little like a thinking-man's 300, presuming that the man was thinking “I do like Zach Snyder's use of slow motion, it's just a shame that the rest of this film is homophobic and shit”. There's also a similarity to Nicholas Winding-Refn's under-rated Valhalla Rising in that the events seem to take the characters into a visually stunning but metaphorical recreation of Satan's lair. In the final battle, the two fighters are mostly seen as two bloodied silhouettes against the blazing, fiery backdrop of hell, which is presumably to represent the monster that Macbeth has become, and the damning of his soul. However if Kurzel really wanted to show what the underworld would look like in Scotland then he could have saved a lot of money by just having the fight take place at closing time on a Friday night in Glasgow. 

Although, maybe he did make the right decision because that final scene was one of the most over-whelming and emotionally charged battles that I think I've ever seen committed to film. I once read that at the time of release, Peter Jackson's Braindead used more fake blood than any other film. Well, having seen the final fight here, I think the actors may have used more real spit than even that. In fact, I haven't seen two people aggressively spit all over each other that much since I found myself alone in the house and watching videos on the naughty side of the internet. He might have been a raving psychopath with nothing to lose but Macbeth did fight with more passion than I've ever seen in our Queen, when she's waving to the crowds of her brain-dead supporters. In fact if the Queen does want to justify her own existence as a tourist attraction then that's fine. But every tourist attraction that I've ever visited has been open to the public and charged me to go inside. As far as I'm concerned, if she wants to carry on with that bullshit excuse then it's about time she played by those rules. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.



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