‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Something wicked this way comes… 

Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth takes this world-renowned tale and elevates it through visual storytelling. For those who are not familiar with this story, a Scottish lord, named Macbeth (Denzel Washington) becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland. His ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand) will do anything to support him in his plans of seizing power. The powerhouse performances and the incredible cinematography present Macbeth in a new, more visceral way, that transcends the stage directions. 

What director Joel Coen and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel create in The Tragedy of Macbeth is the connection between the internal struggle of the characters and the imagery on screen. It felt as if the stage directions from the play came to life and we could visually understand the impending doom. Through the incredible use of lighting, shadows and silhouettes in each scene, it felt as if the emotional weight of the crown filled the screen. The way Coen framed his actors in certain scenes, especially when introducing them, was almost intrusive. When Washington or McDormand was onscreen, there was this feeling of being present within their mind, almost as if they were exposed. 

After watching The Tragedy of Macbeth, one thing is certain, not everyone will enjoy Shakespeare. The story of Macbeth had never been a favourite of mine (my personal favourite is King Lear), but Joel Coen made me gain a new appreciation for the character of Macbeth. Of course, this film wouldn’t have worked without the incredible performance of Denzel Washington. He has tackled Shakespeare in the past and his Macbeth was absolute perfection. Washington was able to dissect the internal thoughts of Macbeth and run that emotion through every piece of dialogue. McDormand was also great as Lady Macbeth; I just wanted to see a bit more of her. 

The Tragedy of Macbeth won’t be for everyone. This film is for the Shakespeare lovers and aspiring directors/cinematographers who wish to make something as visually poetic as this. Through the direction by Coen, the cinematography by Delbonnel, and the production design by Stefan Dechant, the moody atmosphere was filled with the essence of Shakespeare. Even though it wasn’t static, it still felt like a stage play comes to life with the visual addition of the motion picture. Also, I can’t forget to mention Kathryn Hunter’s performance as the trio of witches; one of the eeriest and taunting performances I’ve seen. Make sure to check out this film on Apple TV Plus on January 14th. 

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