So I finally got around to watching this ultra-violent Australian adaptation of Macbeth. I actually won it in a contest, but then the DVD that arrived was not compatible with my player and I forgot all about it...until I learned a few geeky tricks and magically figured out a way how to play it :).
It's easy to compare this modern interpretation to Luhrman's R+J. In fact I think it's part of the press to say exactly that - this one will do for Macbeth what Luhrman did for the other one.
Meh. There are times when it's better compared to something like a Pulp Fiction. Plenty of blood to go around, and whenever one character approaches another you're never quite sure if somebody's about to draw a gun or knife, and use it promptly.
The story opens with the witches, portrayed as triplet girls in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms (I think that's what they were), defacing a graveyard. So it's gonna be like that, is it? (Whenever we see the witches again they're mostly naked, and it's more or less an orgy sequence.)
We then cut to the Macbeths, mourning at the grave of their son. Well there you go, there's a question not often answered.
The plot seems to be one of gangland warfare. There are meetings in alleys, briefcases of money, and lots and lots of shooting each other. Everybody's got rich fancy toys, and there are plenty of opportunities to work in security cameras and other interesting shots. For a play that contains a great deal of paranoia, this works well. You always feel like somebody is watching somebody else. Some directorial choices I liked - like actually watching Macbeth kill not just Duncan, but the guards as well. Often that is done off screen.
The acting in particular is quite flat, for both Macbeths as well as most of the supporting cast. The Banquo's ghost at the table scene in particular was surprisingly flat. There's a great bit of shock thrown in, but that was almost something out of a horror movie, not what I'd call intepretation of the text. There's no chemistry between anybody at all, and when Macbeth delivers lines like "She should have died hereafter" at his wife's death (including gratuitous nude scene), he says it like he's delivering the weather report.
As always with Macbeth, I like to pay particular attention to the ending. I figure there's enough material in Macbeth's descent to make or break the whole movie. Does Macbeth come off like he's full-on insane? Like some crazy immortal god walking among his enemies without fear? Yes and no. During the "storming of the castle", he's freaked out just like everybody else. Lots of ducking and running. This sequence in general is done well for the big picture - it's basically a slow motion massacre with a soundtrack and lots of lasers (maybe a little too much on the lasers). But when the actual sound kicks back in and it's focused on Macbeth again, he shows himself to be just a wee bit insane (including a quick dance number, believe it or not). He does hit it right, briefly, while fighting with Macduff. That sort of crazy confidence of being in a knife fight with somebody and knowing you can't be killed. That is, until you go and get yourself killed. It's that time in between - that realization that you're not immortal - where different Macbeths really either succeed or fail.
But then they have to go and ruin it by changing the ending.
Yeah, you read that right.
I don't want to put in spoilers, but let's just say that our hero does not get in as many last words as he normally does. At all. Like, none. No "Lay on Macduff", no throwing the warlike shield upon the ground, no baited with the rabble's curse. All out. There's definitely some creative interpretation that takes place at the end, and I can see what the director was going for. But man, how do you cut out what is basically the best part?