UK Release Date: 13th March 2018
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: Kit Monkman
Writer: Kit Monkman, Judith Buchanan, Thomas Mattinson, Tom Wexler
Starring: Mark Rowley, Akiya Henry, Al Weaver, David Bark-Jones, Charles Mnene, Charlie Hamblett
Synopsis: Shakespeare’s classic play about an ambitious soldier and his path to the throne gets an interesting new take, shot entirely on green screen.
Macbeth is perhaps the most accessible of William Shakespeare‘s works. Chosen for umpteen GCSE syllabuses, probably for its easy-to-follow storyline and ample blood and guts, it has also made its way to the big screen on countless occasions. From Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood to Justin Kurzel‘s recent adaptation, the ‘Scottish Play’ has beguiled and inspired filmmakers from every corner of the industry. Kit Monkman is the latest director to step up to the plate, with a completely different take on the material – the whole thing is shot in front of a green screen.
There’s an undeniable visual flair to the early stages of this Macbeth, which unfolds on a series of stages assembled in a sort of enormous, Shakespearean Rubik’s Cube. Initially, this feels bold and experimental, but many of the sets look similar and those visual flourishes quickly lose their edge. There’s something worth praising about the chance to do something bold with the staging of the story, but Kurzel’s Macbeth managed that in visceral style without resorting to CGI trickery. A comparison between the showdown between Macbeth and Macduff in those two movies is like comparing night and day.
Monkman’s movie is saved, though, by the genius of his performances. British TV actor Mark Rowley relishes the opportunity to sink his teeth into one of the meatiest acting roles ever written for a man, while Akiya Henry sets the screen alight with her electric take on Lady Macbeth – arguably the meatiest female part ever written. The chemistry between the pair is powerful and each gets a real showpiece moment, with the point of view evocation of Banquo’s ghost allowing for Rowley to go full intensity and the famous hand-washing sequence providing Henry with heart-breaking poignancy as she portrays a woman snapped into disparate fragments by her evil actions.
For all of its top shelf performances and the added dimension of a real sexual charge to the power play between Macbeth and his wife, this Macbeth is one that suffers from a paucity of ideas when it moves into the final stages of the story. It’s all far too long and a little bit of story distillation would’ve gone a long way in making this a more manageable watch, particularly given the rather samey backdrops. With that said, though, it’s worth buying a ticket for the performances alone, which provide lesser known actors with a real opportunity to show off their talents.
Macbeth is in cinemas for one night only on Tuesday, 13th March.
Pop or Poop?
Kit Monkman cannot be faulted for his ambition in putting together this Macbeth, performed solely in front of computerised or matte painted backdrops. That technique soon becomes tired, though, given the film’s excessive length and it is only the two fiery central performances from Mark Rowley and Akiya Henry that keep the thing afloat. If there’s any justice in the world, the pair of them will have bright film careers in their future.
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