28 October 2007 | gradyharp
'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players'
It is refreshing to rest assured that Shakespeare remains a viable writer and no matter how his plays are manipulated or 'updated' or altered or interpreted, his majesty of the English language remains intact and the impact of his ideas and words sustain even the most bizarre reconsiderations. Such, for this viewer, is the case of MACBETH as condensed for the screen by writer/actress Victoria Hill and directed with intensity and sensitivity of communication by Geoffrey Wright. The result may seem to be a bloody mad feud suggesting a majority of the teen driven films of today, but consider the source: imagining Shakespeare's MACBETH without the gore would mean the meat had been removed.
Transferred from Scotland to Melbourne, Australia, the well-known fight for kingship among the Scots is transposed to be the turf struggle for supremacy in the underworld gangland of Melbourne. The script and the direction make this transposition work, using the original dialog from the play, placing it in the voices and bodies of an all-Australian cast, to the point that the allegiance of the actors as to place is far less important than the telling of a powerful tale of ambition. Sam Worthington makes an enigmatic yet strong Macbeth, well paired by Victoria Hill as his conniving and ultimately mad wife Lady Macbeth: the two form a chemistry that serves the original intent of the author well. The many characters who rise and fall in the wake of the ambition of Macbeth tend to blend a bit because of the condensation of the script, but Gary Sweet as the doomed Duncan, Steve Batoni as Banquo, and Lachy Hulme as Macduff are particularly fine. The three witches whose predictions drive the play here become nude seductresses and are well interpreted by Miranda Nation, Chloe Armstrong, and Kate Bell.
The battle scenes are appropriately gruesome and the musical score that accompanies this film is an odd mixture of rock and piano transcriptions of Beethoven symphony movements. With the bracing cinematography by Will Gibson it all works well. Unfortunately the Shakespearean language can become lost with the heavy Aussie accents and subtitles would have been helpful. But if your television set has that subtitle option available, this small defect can be overcome. Yes, it helps to know the original play well in order to fully appreciate the transposition, but the script and cast and director make a fine case for involving even the uninitiated into the power of MACBETH. Worth your time, this. Grady Harp