MacBeth (and a look at the weekend ahead)

Justin Kurzel’s MacBeth is probably the most powerful cinematic adaptation of the bard I’ve ever seen.

I feel like I should couch that kind of hyperbole in a small disclaimer: I’ve never been a huge fan of the way Shakespeare manifests on screen. I tend to prefer the loose adaptations—the comedies, such as Joss Whedon’s domestic take on Much Ado About Nothing, or 10 Things I Hate About You, spun from Taming Of The Shrew. I was a big fan of Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, his version of The Tempest, when I first saw it, though I’ve struggled with its visual overload when I’ve revisited the film more recently.

But Kurzel’s vision is both moody and apocalyptic, which really suits the material, as do the locations, costumes, and casting. Michael Fassbender delivers a compelling and tortured MacBeth, an interesting counterpoint to his Steve Jobs, with both characters wrestling with the weight of a unique power and a special kind of guilt.

Michael Fassbender as MacBeth

Michael Fassbender as MacBeth


One of the audience members at the early screening on Friday remarked on Lady MacBeth, as played by Marion Cotillard: her character in this isn’t driven so much by madness or ambition, but rather grief, following the death of her child in the early scenes. It’s an interesting take. When her murderous machinations help her deeply troubled husband become king, she’s satisfied with this outcome, for a short while at least. The waves of her husband’s madness eventually splash over onto her, leading to her departure from the stage.

Another remark was about the importance of the colour orange in the film. Kurzel takes orange and red as an accent in the darkness of early scenes, and slowly, inexorably, grows it to a final sequence that feels like it takes place in hell, where the air itself is aflame. The visual mastery here is what really impresses, a combination of quiet, still scenes, slo-mo, and deft editing, with a building of intensity, of sound and fury, signifying much.

Sound and fury abound in this adaptation.

Sound and fury abound in this adaptation.


That said, another audience member admitted he was completely at a loss to understand the rhythms of the Shakespearean dialogue. It’s really something you need to tune your ear to.

Our first screening of MacBeth sold out—a big thrill for us, thank you!—and we had a solid turnout for the 9:30pm screening, too. We’re overwhelmed by the audience enthusiasm for the films we’ve been programming.

As I write this in the hours before this year’s Academy Award ceremony, I want to mention that we have two more Oscar-nominated feature films showing at Carbon Arc next weekend.

Mustang, the Best Foreign Language entry from France (though the film is in Turkish), screens at 7pm and 9pm Friday, March 4. Given that every 7pm screening this season has sold out, we recommend you purchase your tickets in advance through PayPal or credit card.


We also have screenings and events on Saturday, March 5. We’re showing the Oscar-nominated film, Theeb, from Jordan, at 7pm.

At 9pm, we’ll be screening the Atlantic Film Festival award-winning documentary Strange & Familiar: The Architecture of Fogo Island, which will be followed by a reception celebrating the launch of Darrell Varga’s new book, Shooting From The East: Filmmaking On The Canadian Atlantic. It’s published by McGill-Queens University Press.

I’ve just begun to read the book, and I’m enjoying the comprehensive look at the history of regional film. His well-researched perspective on local filmmaking throws light (and some shade) on the complexities of Canada’s national cinema—how it’s been considered, critiqued, and funded. Varga’s an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Contemporary Film and Media Studies at NSCAD who has written on the work of documentarian John Walker. He’s a one-man authority on what’s happened here, and I think anyone who has an interest in how we got where we are as a filmmaking and film-loving community will find the book accessible and informative.

Hope to see you there. After the screenings this Saturday, Carbon Arc takes a brief hiatus while the museum holds spring break events in the cinema space, but we’ll be back on March 25 with a hilarious-looking French feature called The Brand New Testament. And we’ll have announcements of features we’ll be showing in the second half of the winter season through April.

One more thing: You may remember when I started this blog I promised I’d share my process of writing a short film screenplay. I’ll have a report on that soon. Thanks for checking in!