Friday Movie Review – “The Tragedy of MacBeth”

Did you know that one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays would be bewitched?

Superstitious actors call it “the Scottish play” rather than saying the title out loud. Previous film versions of the story are not well remembered. And by the way, when the Park City Shakespeare Festival held it in the mid-1980s, the premiere was marred by a statewide blackout. Hmm.

Despite the curses and the hoodoos, director Joel Coen, working for once without his brother Ethan, has created a gripping and visually impressive film, centering on Scottish lord MacBeth, seduced and corrupted by the prediction of three witches he will ride. on the throne. . Unfortunately, he can’t escape their prophecies of his doom either.

The two stars of the film are well matched for Shakespeare, and for each other. Denzel Washington’s slow-boiling intensity is effective and he’s smart about staying in a lower key for some of the most famous explosive passages.

Frances McDormand, known for her stubborn personas (she’s also Joel’s wife by the way) gets downright malicious here. But in the classic crazy scene, she’s both pathetic and scary.

“The Tragedy of MacBeth” is filmed almost entirely on sound stages, against a backdrop of white, choppy fog – whether you’re looking at celestial clouds or the smoke of carnage is indeterminate. The story unfolds around the castle’s cold corridors, courtyards and ramparts cast in faded black and white.

The Coen writers polished the play. Some of the violence that is usually offstage is now front and center. The three strange sisters appear as crows, and in human form they are played by Kathryn Hunter, who is not only a classically trained actress, but also a contortionist. What you see is not a special effect.

Yes, sometimes there are groves of Shakespearean verbiage to browse. But, surprisingly, the film comes in at an off hour and 45 minutes.

Only time will tell if we can salute Coen’s work for breaking the curse. Let’s say “the Scottish film” gets four out of five stars.

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