Macbeth

Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth *** played at Cannes to minor fanfare considering the tantalising casting of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Australian Kurzel, whose debut Snowtown exerted such an icy grip, certainly loves the blasted heaths and chilly bogs of Scotland.

I just kept thinking – God this shoot must have been horrible.

The mood dominates. Mists, griechs and fogs, fires, murk and gloaming. Everyone looks bloody freezing. The electronica score throbs and wheezes.

A battle rages into bloody life, mud and guts slo-motioning across the screen, mouths agape mid-yell, axes ripping into shields. Shakespeare would approve of this.

But when the talking starts, too much is lost. The text is cut to shreds, leaving a greatest hits of Macbeth, a tattered version of too many soliloquies and not enough poetry. It’s fine to modernise Shakespeare, but if you lose the poetry, you also lose the tragedy and it’s this that cuts deepest. There’s no sense of hubris to nemesis. No overwheening, no feeling of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeping with petty pace…

Cotillard? I could hardly understand a word her Lady Macbeth said. And by her face, I reckon she was lost too. Fassbender does a bit of hunky top-off stuff in a little bog, but he looks all at sea. It’s the support who come out best, David Thewlis’ Duncan and, stealing it all, Sean Harris’ anguished Macduff.

I don’t mind a bit of a twist on my Shakespeare, particularly on the big screen, but this one left me – and, by the look, the entire cast – cold.