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Denzel Washington’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is one of the best movies of 2021 — RT Games & Culture


“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” which premiered on Apple TV+ on January 14 after a very limited theatrical release on Christmas Day, is an intriguing film for a variety of reasons.

The first is that it boasts a host of stars, including two-time Academy Award winner and American acting icon Denzel Washington as Macbeth, and three-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand. actress, in the role of Lady Macbeth.

Second, it is the first film directed by a single Coen brother. Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen form one of the most iconic directing duos in Hollywood history, but for ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, Joel Coen flies solo – a first for the brothers.

And finally, it’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for God’s sake! One of the greatest plays of all time written by the greatest playwright of all time.

The result of this mix of star power, directing style and that witch’s William Shakespeare is a film that, while not perfect, could very well be the best film of 2021.

This statement obviously requires context, but the art of cinema was in such a dire and dismal state last year that any discussion of it, well, to quote the bard, “when it’s done then it’s good it’s done quickly.

In short, cinema in 2021 was as Macbeth himself might have described it, “a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and bustles his hour on the stage and then is no longer heard. It’s a story, told by a fool, full of sound and fury, meaning nothing. “

Had I seen a dagger in front of me, I would have grabbed it and plunged deep into 2021, with its abundantly awful films, lifting them out of their misery and me out of mine.

That is to say, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” isn’t as great as it could be but far better than most, making it the greatest dwarf in the Lilliputian land of cinema.

What I liked was that Coen made a bold stylistic choice and stuck to it. The film is made in the style of German Expressionism, with its black-and-white color palette, sparse sets, straight lines, sharp angles, and great heights.


German Expressionism took hold in Weimar, Germany in the 1920s, with the most famous films of this school being “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu”. When German directors came to Hollywood, their style came with them and became prominent in horror and film noir.

Coen’s decision to use German Expressionism to tell the story of a Scottish warrior victim of his own ambition speaks to the current decadent state of America, where unbridled ambition is not everything, c is the only thing.

Just as some interpreted German Expressionism of the 1920s as a manifestation of the fragile collective unconscious of Weimar Germany and the impending embrace of brutal totalitarianism in the form of Nazism and the Third Reich, its use by Coen in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” could be interpreted as a bold statement regarding America’s dire future as well as its current sick conscience, political polarization, violent impulses, and moral degradation.

Whatever his reason for rolling it out, the austere style and intimate setting suits the story and is very pleasing to the eye. Some performances are also enjoyable.

The great Denzel Washington plays Macbeth with a deep weariness that infects his every thought and movement. For Denzel’s Macbeth, even the thought of the crown is heavy, let alone actually wearing it.

As good as Denzel is – and he is very good – veteran stage actress Kathryn Hunter, who plays the Three Witches, steals the show. His mastery as an actor is breathtaking to behold, and combined with Coen’s creative staging of the witch scenes, it makes for some truly glorious cinema.


Denzel Washington’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is one of the best movies of 2021 — RT Games & Culture

With all that said, and although I liked ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, it’s not perfect. For example, Frances McDormand’s Lady Macbeth is surprisingly subdued and seemingly out of sync. Strange as it may seem about an actress with such a stellar resume, McDormand seems upset to have taken on the mantle of Lady Macbeth, and gives an uneven performance as a result.

Another issue was that the hour and 45 minute film felt a bit rushed and lacked deeper emotional connections. These might have thrived had they been given more time. Denzel’s Macbeth and McDormand’s Lady Macbeth, in particular, lacked a cohesive and visceral emotional connection to each other, which undermines the film’s power.

The thing that annoyed me the most, however, was Coen’s staging of the big “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy, which is among the greatest ever written. Coen has Denzel deliver this powerful monologue as he aimlessly descends a flight of stairs, which dilutes and detracts from the power of this sacred speech, rendering it flabby and forgettable.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’. It features a powerful performance from Denzel Washington and a gripping style from director Joel Coen, making it one of the best films of the year.

But be warned, if you’re not a fan of art house and a fan of classic theater, you’ll likely find this movie pretentious and frustrating. It is not popular entertainment. This is for film buffs and Shakespeare aficionados only – everyone else would be advised to steer clear.


RT

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