Macbeth (Geoffrey Wright, 2006) wr. Victoria Hill, Geoffrey Wright, prod. Martin Fabinyi, Mushroom Pictures, shot Melbourne June 2005; Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Lachy Hulme, Mick Molloy, Gary Sweet, Steve Bastoni; uses the text of Shakespeare's play; set in Melbourne underworld contemporary ganglands milieu; world premiere Toronto Sept 2006
Any new adaptation of Shakespeare which retains the original text but sets the action in a modern timeframe creates a permanent tension for the audience (those that are familiar with it, at any rate) in anticipating how the filmmakers will translate 400 year old circumstances. For most of the film, we are on the alert for inventive translations and relocations. How, for example, does Birnam wood march on Dunsinane in 2006? Geoffrey Wright and Victoria Hill have the answer - but I won't spoil it here. Andrew Urban, urbancinefile.
This ultra-contemporary Macbeth, then, naturally draws comparison with Baz Luhrmann's similar treatment of Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, it falls well short. Visually, this movie is a tacky mix of neon lights and bare skin, and at 115 minutes we rattle through the story too fast to feel the gravitas, or grit, so ingrained in the original. Most important, Wright's actors struggle to bring life to Shakespeare's language, meaning we never forget the incongruous fact that these 21st-century gangsters are speaking 16th-century English. The result, despite all the carnage, is a pale, bloodless adaptation. David Mattin, BBCi.
Macbeth should remain a living, breathing document. But the rush into gunfights and car chases pushes the text in all the wrong directions. As written, the 400-year-old words are still fresher than anything ripped from Miami Vice. And what, really, don't we already know about honor among thieves? Only in the movie's later going, as the usurper (Sam Worthington) begins to bog down in blood, does the cast stop rushing its lines and the film move nearer to the topical and tragic. Brian Miller, Village Voice.
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