Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Michael Fassbender as Macbeth

I just saw the new Macbeth film, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

It’s a good film, and you should definitely see it.

When I first heard about the film over a year ago, I was excited because I’m a big fan of both Fassbender and Cotillard. I really thought that they were very well cast as the Macbeths.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of scale and special effects to make this Macbeth larger than life. The scenery is great, but the sets are rather simple, the music is very subdued, and there is hardly any special effects.

 But it was clearly the director’s choice to dispense with too much pomp and pagentry, cut to the chase, and get right to the performances.

And the performances are superb. Why do you need special effects and big sets and casts of thousands when you can get great performances from the two leads, and focus the camera on their faces and leave it there?

I was thrilled at the moments when the camera just held on Ms. Cotillard’s and Mr. Fassbender’s face as they spoke. Sometimes the best special effects are the faces of great actors. And their voices are very compelling, and it is exciting to hear them speak Shakespeare’s words.

It is not every actor who can play such demanding roles while the camera is so close to their face.

Michael Fassbender makes such unusual choices in his career, everything from (the young) Magneto in the X-Men films, to Shame, 12 Years a Slave and so forth. He is immensely charismatic, and seems to love to challenge himself with each role he chooses.

I was thrilled to see him do Shakespeare, and he is perfect as Macbeth. 

His Macbeth is no thug, no brute, and is actually very likeable in the beginning. He is sympathetic at first. He makes Macbeth’s descent into madness and murder chilling and very human. I was pleased that he never made Macbeth seem like a monster — only a man who has an ambition which “o’erleaps itself.”

I really hope that he catches the Shakespeare bug and continues to do more, especially for the stage.

Ms. Cotillard is an inspired choice for Lady Macbeth. She is that rare  actress who can play just about any role. 

Her Lady Macbeth is very cold and calculating, and it is clear that she is in command of their relationship. Her chemistry with Mr. Fassbender is strong, and the scenes with both of them together are great. Her descent into madness is very moving, and more emotional than I am used to seeing it.

I hope that she also continues to do Shakespeare, now that she has done this film.

If there was one thing about their performances which I find fault with, it is that sometimes the fact that all of the dialogue is spoken too softly, and sometimes there is too much restraint in the filmmaking.

The entire film has a hushed quality that, rather than making it dramatic and suspenseful, just sounded like the film’s volume was turned too low.

The rest of the cast is great — they look perfect for this period, and they are all compelling in their own way.

I especially liked Sean Harris as Macduff. He gets one of the best scenes in the film, upon hearing that his wife and children have been murdered, and his moment of heartbreak is very moving.

The director, Justin Kurzel, does an impressive job with the period, and the actors. I was very pleased that the film was not as blood-soaked and gory as I expected it to be. Of course, there are several murders on screen, but I appreciated the restraint.

Mr. Kurzel weaves some rather interesting creative choices into Shakespeare’s play — how he depicts the Weird Sisters, and how Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, for example. I thought the Weird Sisters were good, but not as frightening as they should be. 

The climax, how Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, is a very inspired choice. It suprised me, and was very well done.

But more than anything else, he makes an excellent choice to simplify the story and focus on the two great actors in the lead roles. 

I encourage you to go see this film. 

Even if you have seen the play, or read it before, there is much here that will entertain you. 

If you have never seen it before, or have not read it, this film is a good introduction — but you should still read the play. The words themselves have a “rough magic” which everyone should discover for themselves.


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