The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth ★★★★★

My nearly sold-out cinema burst into applause as soon as The Tragedy of Macbeth ended last night - which is notable considering that it was a crowd of folks who had gathered at 9:30pm on a Monday night to experience a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation.

So, yes, this film is impeccably well-made. What's always astonishing about well-performed Shakespeare is how we understand the meaning of a scene not necessarily through total comprehension of every line, but through the feeling and delivery of the language. It really doesn't matter if you understand everything you hear - the dramatic purpose of a scene is always resoundingly clear and the internal struggles of the characters tangibly real.

With The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen offers a nightmarish vision to accompany the text - the Bergman-esque imagery of his adaptation will stay with me for a long time. As always, the acting is superb. Marvel at the way minor Shakespeare characters are molded into colorful ancillary Coen creations (played by the likes of Stephen Root and Jefferson Mays). And where's the talk of Denzel Washington winning his third Oscar? It is a thrill seeing the actor tear into this role with all of his prowess. Give Washington free rein with the text of Shakespeare, August Wilson, Eugene O'Neill or Malcolm X and you'll get the finest acting on earth.

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