Ah, Macbeth. I’m sorry, *the Scottish play*. The last time I read this, I was sixteen and facing my O-levels. Years later, only two verses (half, really) remain stuck in my mind:
Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
My Literature teacher would be so disappointed. 🙂 If I was a student now and trying to get by with this version of Macbeth, I’ll say, “good luck, mate”, because Shakespeare ReTold: Macbeth is like Macbeth Lite, or MTV does Macbeth. Very slick, but scrape away the surface, very little is left.
This Macbeth takes place in a restaurant, where Macbeth is head chef, and Duncan the owner. Everyone takes their proper places, in the hierarchy of a restaurant. The plot follows the play closely. Where ReTold loses direction, however, was the exploration of the themes of the play.
First, the witches were made into binmen. Now, if Macbeth was silly enough to believe binmen…but he was! C’mon! While I appreciate the attempt to modernize the setting, I do not believe in half-measures. After all, Banquo’s ghost was still kicking about, so the supernatural is still alive (ha ha) in this Macbeth. The fact of the matter is the supernatural (or rather one’s belief in the supernatural) is a theme in the play and the point is rather lost (needlessly) by making the witches binmen. And to have Macbeth believe them just makes him look foolish, when the play is not about a foolish man. It is a play about a man fooled by ambition. My alternative would have been to make the witches food critics, at least. It would be less of an insult to Macbeth.
Second, my poor, poor Lady Macbeth. She got a little shortchanged, I think. I know, it’s supposed to be a short film but I think the relationships (most evidently, Macbeth-Banquo, Macbeth-Lady Macbeth) were sacrificed for the sake arty shots. Oh, I do not deny it was wonderfully shot, in a dark way reminiscent of dank castles (kudos, on that) which never veered into gritty (which would have spoiled the whole thing). It was just a pity the balance was heavy on shots rather than the exploration of the human emotions, necessary to the play.
There are other things with which I was dissatisfied with ReTold, but I did like the way it was filmed, and the actors gave splendid performances. McAvoy was brilliant, transitioning from a man who was quite happy with his life, if a little dissatisfied with some parts of it to a man driven to murder. While the script faltered in showing the reasons why he was driven to murder, the intensity of the torment McAvoy’s Macbeth felt eclipsed it. Keeley Hawes (Lady Macbeth) managed a fine balance between suppressed guilt and insanity, never veering into the ridiculous.
And there was James McAvoy carving up a pig. Disgusting, yet compelling.
Next: Shakespeare ReTold: The Taming of the Shrew