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The Tragedy of Macbeth

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth.

The Tragedy of Macbeth was theatrically released nationwide in 2021 and is now streaming on AppleTV+. Watch this work of art on a TV screen and you’ll likely agree that last year’s ‘Best Film’ is this year’s masterpiece.

Joel Coen (O, Brother, Where Art Thou) has created a magnus opus that sets a high bar few other films vying for annual awards will ever reach. He reinterprets one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth, keeping the most pivotal parts and accentuating subplots and characters at will. Some potential viewers may have forgotten the crux of the plotting, but not the most famous lines: “Double, double toil and trouble”; “What’s done cannot be undone.”

Scottish General Macbeth (Denzel Washington) is warned by three witches (Kathryn Hunter) that someday he will be king. Heeding that prophecy and egged on by his ambitious wife Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand), the impatient officer kills the current king, becomes the new ruler, and then murders more people during his uncontrollable fits of paranoia. A rebellion erupts, aiming to overthrow him. Themes of greed, deception, and ruthlessness mirror the U.S.’s recent political spectrum and should enthrall audiences with its timeliness.

This drama is shot in stunning black and white (cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) with the most arresting production design (Stefan Dechant, Avatar), art direction (Jason T. Clark, Black Panther), set decoration (Nancy Haigh, Barton Fink) and regal costumes (Mary Zophres, La La Land). Haunting shadows and light. Shapes and textures. Darkness and white. The vivid images will entrance audiences as much as the penetrating dialogue, treacherous plot points, and Coen’s gifted direction.

Comparisons to the style of Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles’ classic 1940s Shakespeare adaptations and early 20th-century German expressionism are noted. However, Cohen’s netherworld seems unique and new in its own way. Not filmed as a stage play, not set in real surroundings. A hybrid. And rarely do black and white footage produce more of an expressive richness than the most vibrant and vivid color film. But it does here.

When Oscar acting nominations are handed out, expect Washington’s brooding performance and McDormand’s scheming portrayal to top the lists. As bitter, aging co-conspirators, they take cunning and evilness to a new level—seething like vipers, as duplicitous as any con artists could be. Award nominations should also be given to Alex Hassell as the sleazy vulture Ross, Bertie Carvel as Banquo, Moses Ingram as Lady Macduff, Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as the brave and righteous Macduff, and, of course, Hunter as the sorceresses who delivered both a prophecy and misfortune in equal portions.

You may need a bit of patience and a sharp ear to understand the dialogue, which was originally written in the 1600s and adapted by Coen. However, your perseverance will be rewarded. At the end of your one-hour and 45-minute journey, you’ll discover that every element of this ‘object d’art’ is beyond excellent.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” Who could have guessed that shrewd, vile cruelty could be so damn mesmerizing?

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