Macbeth (2017) – Film Review
Director: Kit Monkman
Starring: Mark Rowley, Charles Mnene, Akiya Henry
by Roger Crow
It’s the summer of 2015. I’m stood in a Bubwith movie studio watching a band of impressive actors filming scenes for Macbeth. Shot against a huge green screen, there’s no danger of spilling the beans on what the finished film will look like. I haven’t got a clue.
I ask director Kit Monkman why he choose Macbeth as his follow-up to school gang drama The Knife That Killed Me. “The most interesting thing about ’Knife’ was the way it explores a middle ground between representational reality and psychological kind of psycho-geography if you like; inner space, which is not normally film’s language. It’s so grounded in a material reality, but it is often the theatre’s language. Macbeth for example works incredibly well on a black stage.”
Or in this case green, which turns black at the flick of a switch.
“It can make those deft movements from an inner psychological state to an external material state in a split second and you go with it; you’re making most of it up in your head.”
“No baggage to sidetrack viewers”
Fast forward to the summer of 2017; props and sets have been painstakingly added via computer in the years since, and the result is a fascinating take on ‘the Scottish play’.
I’ll be honest, I’m stunningly unfamiliar with the Bard’s oft-quoted tale, though certain lines remind me of countless interpretations over the years. I did see Roman Polanski’s version in the early 1990s, but Michael Fassbender’s recent acclaimed version passed me by. When I finally get to see Kit’s offering during a preview screening in York, to me at least it feels like a brand new story.
It helps that the cast are largely unknown, so there’s no baggage to sidetrack viewers. Mark Rowley is especially terrific as the eponymous protagonist.
Unlike many Shakespeare adaptations where viewers have to be reminded where characters are, this takes place in an enormous multi-tiered globe, each segment of drama occurring on different levels. Imagine watching a cross section of a mini Death Star, the camera drifting between levels, and zooming in on key characters. It’s that sort of movie, brilliantly done, and it helps bridge the gap between theatre and film.
“A fascinating take on a classic tale”
As this is a preview screening, there’s no immediate chance of seeing it at your local art house cinema or multiplex as Monkman and GSP Studios are awaiting a distributor. I don’t think they’ll have to wait too long given the art world’s voracious appetite for all things Shakespeare, and its relevant, fresh feel.
Some might say we didn’t need another version so soon after Fassbender’s. But given its stylish and very different execution to any of the Bard’s tales since Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, this is a fascinating take on a classic tale. It boasts a great score and clever visuals which don’t dominate the movie but help tell the tale beautifully.
Keep an eye out for it when it eventually does hit cinemas. It’s worth the wait.