Director: Geoffrey Wright, Release date: 13 July
One of the problems with critiquing adaptations of Shakespeare is that - unless you really don't like his work - it is difficult to fault the script. For this reason I was pretty much torn about the latest film version of Macbeth, directed by Geoffrey Wright whose previous work includes Romper Stomper.
This Macbeth is set in modern day gangland Melbourne, with feudal lords replaced by mobsters with a surprisingly large volume of blood. I know Shakespeare is bloody anyway, but I think Sam Worthington, who plays Macbeth, puts it best when he is quoted in the press release as saying that "Geoffrey [Wright] pitched it to me as the most violent film ever made. He said it might be banned and I thought I want to be part of that, where do I sign?" Is that really the starting point for an adaptation of Shakespeare?
When the guns stop firing long enough, and words manage to get out of the bloody mouths of the actors, you can't help but feel that the dialogue was almost an afterthought - something to punctuate the gore-fest. You almost end up thinking that Wright wanted to save time on writing a script and so used one by someone else.
One of the elements I appreciated most about the play was the power games between warlords. The translation of this to gangland seems far shallower - presenting the more basic themes of ego and power.
Aside from the occasional actor appearing a little uncomfortable with the Shakespearian text, the cast do pretty well at getting the poetic verse across. And, to be fair, they didn't try changing much of it. But, while the director boasts of keeping the soliloquies intact, the truth is they are often butchered of some of their most interesting content. You begin to wonder if Wright actually recognises the importance of the words.
One of my biggest criticisms of the film is exemplified by the interpretation of the three witches. They have been cast as three schoolgirls, who manipulate Macbeth through prolonged sex scenes. There is apparently no good reason for this, although Wright does boast about the "sexiness" of the film.
Is it really necessary? Or that Lady Macbeth is naked in nearly half her scenes? Or that, when one of the female characters is brutally garrotted, the killer seems to get a perverse pleasure from it? It's Shakespeare. If you think you need to sell an adaptation of the playwright on an attractive cast, exaggerated violence and in your face sex scenes, you can't help but wonder if the director appreciates the task he is undertaking.
However, as I said, all of this is nearly saved by the words the actors speak. But, to be honest, if I saw Macbeth performed by Ant and Dec I would probably still be able to get some form of enjoyment from it.