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Ralph Fiennes in Macbeth (

There have been many film versions of Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The latest production is a stage version captured on film, featuring Ralph Fiennes in the title role. Source: Australian Catholics.

Filming the stage play is a way of immersing the audience in the action, stylised as it is. The camera is able to bring us closer, through extreme close-ups, of the characters, a focus and view of them sometimes more intimate than for the theatre audience.

The setting is contemporary. Macbeth and soldiers are in more familiar military uniform, the weird sisters (rather than witches) look bizarre but less sinister, and Lady Macbeth wears a simple white dress. The impact for the audience means that they are not looking at a cinematic spectacle, with a play opened out in realistic fashion. Rather, the emphasis is on the characters and the language.

This version is worth seeing because Fiennes’ interpretation of Macbeth is different from what we have seen in the past. At first sight, weary from battle, Macbeth seems ordinary despite his rank. He is stirred by the words of the weird sisters, moved by ambition, yet a firm companion with Banquo, and returns home to his wife.

Seemingly already maddened by the intrigue against the king, his mental morality challenged and sanity beginning to go awry, Fiennes presents Macbeth with all kinds of unexpected erratic behaviour. He moves through most of the play stooped, bent from the waist, sometimes walking, sometimes running, even sometimes jigging. And his face goes through all kinds of expressions, giggles, mad laughs, even poking out his tongue and pulling faces. Not quite the solemn Macbeth we are used to.

This version of the play, however, could be called Lady Macbeth. As played by Indira Varma, she is a steely personality, sometimes softer in appearance, but soon moving into grim determination and masterminding the plot. 

One of the great advantages of this performance is that the cast speak their lines with commendable clarity, making the iambic pentameter seem like conversation.

Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media.

Macbeth: Starring Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma, Ben Allen, Ewan Black, Jonathan Case, Steffan Rhodri, Ben Turner. Directed by Simon Godwin. 150 minutes. Rated M (Violence).


Macbeth (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)