review of a Coen full of noise and fury on Apple TV +

1 Coen vs 3 witches

After a bloody battle, a sergeant comes to announce to King Duncan of Scotland that his General Macbeth has shown exemplary courage in the face of the allied forces of Norway and Ireland. Rather than show us the confrontation, The Tragedy of Macbeth remains faithful to the off-screen of William Shakespeare’s play, which he adapts meticulously the language and its musicality.

However, Joel Coen’s approach could not be more cinematographic, as evidenced by this first sequence where several characters follow the sergeant in the exposure of the situation to the king. Through remarkable work on depth of field, the director of No Country for Old Men films the bodies from the front, offering a slightly deviating reading of the traditional reverse shot. In this way, the entrances and exits of the various protagonists do not take place laterally, as the courtyard and garden sides of a theater stage would suppose. Conversely, here we are in full three-dimensionality, facing images which, by their centripetal force, encourage us to let ourselves be immersed in them.

What to compete with Welles

This staging logic, comparable to that of paintings marking by their frame their nature as a window to another world, accords with the filmmaker’s highly pictorial approach. Supported by the always brilliant Bruno Delbonnel in photography (recurring collaborator of the Coens, but also of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton), Joel Coen makes his Macbeth a permanent masterpiece, where black and white constantly magnifies a multitude of gray textures, starting with this heavy sky filled with crows.

As if to illustrate the ambiguity of a man torn between Good and Evil, this literal gray area encloses his anti-hero in an expressionism that is both refined and oppressive, geometric buildings which on many occasions offer some pretty visual feats of strength.

If Coen has always been passionate about the logic of his characters, even the most absurd, his camera – and the irony with which he has always armed it – seems here perfectly appropriate to adapt the story of this general persuaded by three witches who ‘he will become king, even if it means committing regicide himself. Devoured by his own ambition, Macbeth is always a wonderful tragic character, to whom the filmmaker delivers a mental space that materializes his progressive madness.

The Tragedy of Macbeth : photo, Denzel Washington“Why The Equalizer 2?”

Washington in Scotland

But the best part of all this is the urgency that the filmmaker manages to extract from a play dating back several centuries. By completely obliterating an imagery of the people, his vision of Macbeth reflects a futile political squabble, the theater of the powerful who do not even seek to consider the responsibility of their power. Suffice to say that the original text has lost none of its verve, especially as Joel Coen tries to keep up the pace (this is Shakespeare’s shortest play), which he condenses into 1:45 well collected.

However, the director avoids a cynical treatment of his story, and on the contrary succeeds in bringing it a welcome sensitivity. Where Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are often embodied by young actors, the fact that the filmmaker has turned to Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (both excellent) brings an unsuspected fragility, that ofa close-knit and aging couple, even more desperate at the idea of ​​losing this power that they have so fantasized about.

The Tragedy of Macbeth : Photo Denzel Washington, Frances McDormandDenzel Washington and Frances McDormand: The Perfect Alchemy

It is undoubtedly no coincidence that the project has chosen to support the tragic dimension of the piece from its title: Joel Coen captures a last chance at glory here, a dream for a man and a woman whose camera marks with beauty the wrinkles, but also the recurring void around lonely bodies, deprived of an offspring that could have changed everything.

With such a note of intention, one would come to look for a catch. However, that is precisely where it is. At the end of the film, there remains a somewhat strange feeling. Despite all his clever, even admirable choices, or his cast always at the top (special mention to Corey Hawkins, very convincing in Macduff), The Tragedy of Macbeth has something almost too clean, too thought out to totally take the viewer on an emotional level.

Perhaps this is due to the hovering shadow of Joel Coen’s predecessors (in particular Orson Welles), but the author seems to lack this little grain of madness, this side step which has nevertheless always defined the cinema of the duo. This does not detract from the quality of this adaptation, but his work as a good student could have enjoyeda little extra soul.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is available on Apple TV + since January 14, 2022

The Tragedy of Macbeth : Affiche US

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