New ‘Macbeth’ Movie Proves Shakespeare’s Not Dead

The first full trailer for the highly anticipated adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth from director Justin Kurzel has hit the Internet, and from the looks of it the film will have stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard picking up trophies left and right come awards season next year. More than that, though, the hype over this movie shows what us Shakespeare fans already knew, that the works of the Bard really are timeless and can continue to move and entertain audiences in 2015 just as they did in 1606 when Macbeth is believed to have been first performed.

The trailer shows the film set in period, with swampy Scotland shrouded in fog for the dark interpretation of Shakespeare’s most twisted play. Michael Fassbender is in the role of Macbeth, a Scottish general who under the influence of his power hungry wife murders to become king of Scotland. Marion Cotillard will play his ruthlessly ambitious wife Lady Macbeth, one of the most complicated female characters in literary history. Macbeth’s guilt over having killed King Duncan causes him to tumble down a spiral of paranoid delusions that turn him into a tyrannical ruler. He and Lady Macbeth have to engineer more and more deaths to keep their hold on the throne as they descend into madness. Some may remember the plot from the Cliffsnotes read on the play to pass a high school or college exam.

The movie premiered at Cannes, where it got rave reviews. “Fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period,” Variety film critic Guy Lodge wrote. “A bold, inventive and violent adaptation with two award-worthy lead performances,” The Hollywood Reporter said.

“With its foregrounded class conflict, horror-movie spookiness and — most importantly — use of brutal violence, it’s an adaptation that has a much better chance than most Bard-based works of crossing-over to audiences beyond the arthouses.” THR added, which will be a pretty significant feat for a Shakespeare movie with the original dialogue still intact. Lots of movies based on Shakespeare plots, from The Lion King (Macbeth) to 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) have been successful, but getting audiences into the theaters to listen to Shakespearian English will be no small feat.

The accolades, the violence, and the comparisons to fan favorite TV show Game of Thrones brought on by the creepily magical Dark Ages period Scotland setting are all elements that will help with the film’s appeal to wider audiences than just Shakespeare aficionados and those who go see every movie that gets good reviews out of Cannes.

Shakespeare’s works are still popular today because of the playwright’s ability to connect with universal themes regarding the human experience in both tragedy and comedy, which is why he’s regarded as one of, if not the, greatest writers of all time. The predicted success of this adaptation of Macbeth both on the awards circuit and at the box office is just the latest example of how Shakespeare will never really die, even with popular audiences.

Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth will be released in the U.S. this fall.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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