Film Review: Macbeth


Director Justin Kurzel delivers a haunting adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic. Macbeth is a sharp and often brutal cinematic retelling of the play.

Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy that he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition, Macbeth is spurred on by his wife to take action to claim the throne for himself…

Justin Kurzel, director of 2011’s Snowtown, has created powerful and evocative cinema with his version of Macbeth. The cinematography, setting, sound and screenplay combine to offer an adaptation that works fantastically on the big screen. Michael Fassbender delivers a commanding performance as the title character. He is ably aided by Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth and Sean Harris as a memorable Macduff.

Kurzel’s Macbeth has been trimmed from the original for the screen, as is necessary given the length of the play. The changes make the duration feel brisk, without losing the essence of the play. There are also some changes to the delivery and set-ups, but those enamoured with Shakespeare’s work will likely see the reasoning behind this.

Macbeth keeps the original Shakespeare dialogue. Whilst this may seem impenetrable, particularly for those less familiar with the bard’s plays, it actually works well within the context. This is because this version of Macbeth relies heavily on the visual, meaning that viewers will be able to follow the story even if they do not understand every word of the dialogue. The screenplay trims a significant amount of dialogue, with images helping to tell the story.

Justin Kurzel directs the action with a brusqueness that suits the overall tone. The film keeps the original period in its setting, and the battle sequences work well to depict the brutality of the time, whilst also mirroring the mindset of the protagonist. Macbeth’s descent into madness is concise but effective. Use of colour and composition in Macbeth is excellent. The sound, employed throughout, is a big element of the haunting atmosphere.

With striking performances and an evocative atmosphere, Kurzel’s Macbeth is a most admirable cinematic retelling of the Scottish play.

Film Review: Snowtown

Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown is a grim but compelling drama. The film takes an interesting perspective on events, one that leaves enough ambiguity to keep viewers on their toes.

Teenager Jamie lives with his mother and his brothers in an Adelaide suburb. After Jamie had his brothers fall victim to an abuser, his mother introduces new people into the family home. Among them is John Bunting, a charismatic guy who Jamie begins to look up to. There is, however, a much darker side to John…

Snowtown is an incredibly bleak film. This does not distract from how compelling it is. Justin Kurzel and co-writer Shaun Grant have wisely decided to depict proceedings through the protagonist Jamie. This works well, as viewers are able to empathise with the teenager, and are able to understand why Jamie is in John’s thrall. It is an interesting perspective as the focus is not solely on John Bunting and the crimes that he committed. Rather, Snowtown concentrates on his relationship with the family and his influence on Jamie.

The portrayal of John Bunting is not one dimensional in the least. Instead, it is totally believable that Jamie would be in awe of the character, given John’s personality and John’s background. There is a rationale to John’s crimes to begin with, even though the crimes themselves are unsavoury. It is only as the film unfolds that his motives become blurred. The horror of both the crimes and his mindset gradually become apparent; John is not a monster to begin with. Similarly, Jamie has equal depth. This makes both the character and his perspective fascinating. There is a helplessness to him that is sad and disturbing.

A film about a serial killer is expected to be violent. Yet much of the violence in Snowtown is implied rather than overtly depicted. Sound is integral to the film at all times. The sound of torture and murder in some scenes is searing, whilst the score is used sparingly, but to great effect. The handheld camera suits the tone of the film. The cinematography captures the dankness of surroundings.

Lucas Pittaway is convincingly as the introverted as Jamie. Pittaway is believable throughout the film, and is especially strong in the more disturbing scenes. Daniel Henshall is superb as John Bunting. The actor captures the various sides to his personality exceptionally well.

Snowtown may prove too heavy-going for some viewers. Most will find the film engaging and certainly a worthwhile watch.