Like the eternal blood staining Lady Macbeth’s hands, the trailer for Justin Kurzel’s film has stayed with me since I first saw it at some ungodly hour last night. Kurzel cut his teeth on the Australian indie Snowtown, a film based on the true story of the Snowtown Murders. Pervaded by almost unbearable, slow-mounting tension, it’s somehow, miraculously, rendered sublime by Kurzel’s keen eye and dexterous command of tone and pacing. It’s one of the grossest (in the sense that it made me cry in the shower afterwards) films I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterpiece.
Now Kurzel is attempting the filmmaker’s version of the actor’s Hamlet challenge, making the jump from low-budget, DIY filmmaking to a studio-backed, star-laden adaptation of the Bard’s bloodiest tale. At some point or another, many great filmmakers take a stab at Shakespeare; some of the most important directors of the last century (Kurosawa, Welles, Polanski) have helmed some fine cinematic renditions of Macbeth. Though Kurzel obviously has yet to earn a place among the aforementioned three, the trailer for his Macbeth, combined with the (mostly) positive notices that greeted the film at Cannes, suggests that Kurzel may very well have crafted one a big-screen Macbeth that can stand alongside them.
The new trailer gives us glimpses of Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, bearded and bloodied and enveloped by hellish flame, as well as Marion Cotillard’s sensuous, scheming interpretation of Lady Macbeth. These are, without a doubt, the sexiest Macbeth and Lady Macbeth yet, though Sir Patrick Stewart is also up there. The widescreen compositions are stunning, with hazy light and fog suffusing the screen and religious imagery strewn about obviously, yet aptly. The trailer shows off a layered sound design—Mallick-esque whispers, cries of “Hail Macbeth,” horror movie-inspired shhhhkkks and metallic clashing (which can be kind of annoying and lazy, but seem fine here, so we’ll see how that works in the film)—as well as Fassbender’s Macbeth and Sean Harris’ Macduff going at each other with broadswords drawn. (Spoiler?)
With Snowtown, Kurzel gave a deliberate, incisive look at masculinity and manhood, of violence begetting violence and the tar-pit-like immurement of blood spilled. Macbeth looks like it shares the same ideas, but splashed across a much wider, more expensive canvas.
The trail of the tape
Director: Justin Kurzel
Screenwriters: Michael Lesslie, Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis
The entire trailer in one line: “I dare do all that may become a man.”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
Part of what makes this trailer so fiendishly beguiling is the choice of music: In the second half of the two-minute trailer, a sample from Swans’ nightmarish, two-hour double LP The Seer crescendos, conjured up from eerie silence like one of the witches’ spells. One of the best (if not exactly most accessible) rock albums from this decade, The Seer fits Kurzel’s style like a custom-made sheath on King Macbeth’s sword. Why more filmmakers haven’t tapped Michael Gira’s no-wave band is a mystery that may never be solved, but praise belongs to whoever realized the droning cacophony of Swans fit Macbeth so well. Something wicked indeed.