William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been adapted to the screen many times before and a few top tier directors can claim their versions are some of the best ever but it’s never been adapted quite like The Tragedy of Macbeth. It’s a story that has lasted nearly 400 years because it’s a durable and timeless tragedy, a form of storytelling that is ingrained within human existence. Macbeth is an adaptable tale of political corruption and a psychological descent into madness among many other things.
Joel Coen, minus Ethan for the first time ever, and with A24 for the first time ever, brings to life his version of Macbeth in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”,
“Double double Toil and Trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble… Round about the cauldron go, in the poisoned entrails throw”,
Just like the witches brew and their rhymey chants, The Tragedy of Macbeth is a cinematic concoction that works flawlessly for so many reasons.
The direction of Joel Coen, the sole commander of this politically maddening tragedy, is a direct and fixed German expressionist gaze at Macbeth and alongside him is DP Bruno Delbonnel who has worked with the Coen Brothers before, but not on a production like this. I can’t recall the last film to dive so deeply into German expressionism with such precision and to apply it to a Shakespeare tragedy is truly remarkable. The cinematography of The Tragedy of Macbeth is stunning. Each frame is artistically meaningful. Regardless of the shot depths, the composition traps in all of its polished beauty. It can often be deceptive with the size of each scenery. And the smooth black and white photography is aesthetically pleasing. The entire movie was shot on sound stages!
The Production Design as a whole is next level from the bottom up. Stefan Dechant and the production design team, Jason T. Clark and the art direction team, Nancy Haigh and the set decor team, Mary Zophres and the costume designers and the entire makeup team. Even just one of these departments underperforming could’ve been enough to break the film’s cinematic spell.
The Tragedy of Macbeth’s cast is phenomenal. You can’t have a real tragedy without the human pieces and the leading Frances Mcdormand and Denzel Washington, a unique but effective duo, add onto their already illustrious acting careers with some outstanding individual performances. And the rest of the cast—Bertie Carvel, Corey Hawkins, Alex Hassell, Harry Melling, Brendan Gleeson bring some of their best work to the Castle of Macbeth.
It’s clear that The Tragedy of Macbeth is the type of movie that is out to garner any and all 2022 award recognition it can reach for, and honestly it’s deservedly so. This may only work at this year’s Academy Awards where the field of nominees is much bigger than say the Golden Globes and coming off of a year like 2021. In most categories, it lurks just on the edge of contention but still, The Tragedy of Macbeth is top tier goosebump inducing cinema.