DOP: Art Eng | Cast: Angus Macfadyen, Taylor Roberts, Harry Lennix and Kevin McNally.
Synopsis: MACBETH UNHINGED is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, set in a stretch limousine, which marauds through an abandoned modern American city, as its ambitious queen and increasingly isolated King lose their minds behind the tinted windows of elitist opportunity, and as the fabric of society becomes unhinged and falls apart before our eyes.
Black and white composition accompanied by a jarring but jazzy and hip hop score by Mike Nichols you can be sure that this rendition of Macbeth, directed by Angus Macfadyen and starring a host of recognisable and respected talent from the big and small screen, is certifiably a unique addition to pile.
When someone is able to offer up something different, in more ways than one, to one of the 21st century’s most popular fictional tragedies it’s already a triumph. However there’s still a lot to be said for a film that throws down the gauntlet at the feet of a literary and cultural beast but struggles to rise to the challenge of its own making.
Still this modern setting (somewhere in USA because it is too sunny for Scotland) there is the ever-faithful delivery of Shakespeare’s lines verbatim. None of that modern text speak! This is the real deal.
Macbeth Unhinged is not for everyone. I’ll admit that much, because as someone who appreciates film as an art form not always packaged in a neat polished box – I still had a little bit of a tough time adjusting to this production. It’s choppy, uncomfortable to watch, and not always in a stylistically purposeful way – some of the lines are rushed and I’m not entirely convinced that anyone outside of Henry Lennix’s brilliant delivery as Banquo, knows what they’re doing.
The production values aren’t great, which works in the films favor in this case as it’s largely all set in the back of a limousine. I guess this aesthetic is the short cut way to display the vulgarity of wealth without forking out for a castle. Clever? Perhaps, but also a little underwhelming and perplexing when Lady Macbeth is forced to writhe and seduce on the surface of a tacky leather seat.
Macbeth in this version looks the part of a general; here he’s a Scottish brute, heading up a bunch of gun-toting bruisers. If this were smelly-vision, he’d smell of whisky, cigarettes, Amaris eud de toilette, and sweat. Unlike recent adaptations, this Macbeth is relatively bullish. Lady Macbeth is perhaps the most beautiful and sensuous i’ve seen. Taylor Roberts is stunning, sexy and carries the manipulative look of the plotting Lady Macbeth effortlessly – though subtle with the physicality of her performance for the most part, Roberts’ almost seems a little out of place. Where Macfadyen’s performance is set to 10, Roberts’ is a 5 at best. Which is why come the final climactic Act where guilt overtakes her – it’s all a little anti-climactic.
Unhinged is definitely the right word to explain this recent offering. There’s a conscious effort to deliver something off-kilter, a want to explore the madness of the protagonist on a deeper level than the lines on a page. Honestly, when it works it works (the physical performances of Weird Sisters cavorting on screen is visually appealing and works so well in this context) and when it doesn’t (the whole thing in the back of the limo? Really?) It falls astronomically flat – simply because not all of the performances are strong enough to carry the weight of such a small setting. It’s not pretty and it’s not even that good – but it is different.