Tavish and Tarush watched THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH with each other while visiting their grandparents for Christmas. They discuss their thoughts on the movie below!
Overall Emoji Review
Tarush – 😊
Tavish – 🤮
Tarush – While THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH is an excellent movie by any individual measure, I couldn’t get over the Shakespearean English used in the film.
Tavish – I thought THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH would be another THE GREEN KNIGHT, complete with stunning visuals, a powerful story, and epic world-building; boy, was I wrong.
What kept this movie from a 🤩 for you?
Tarush – As I mentioned in my one-line review, this movie was excellent in some regards. The cinematography is stunning and works beautifully in black and white. However, compared to BELFAST and C’MON C’MON, I felt like THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was much more thoughtful in its usage, with stark monochromatic scenes that couldn’t have been translated to color.
In addition, the acting was stellar. Frances McDormand’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth and Kathryn Hunter’s cinematic breakout as all three witches were the standouts to me, but every character seemed impeccably cast and well-acted. That said – this movie’s English is almost incoherent; at times, it felt like I was watching a foreign language film without the subtitles. Most of the time, I could glean the circumstances based on the emotive portrayals, but I would’ve been lost if I hadn’t known the story ahead of time.
Tavish – THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was an indecipherable mess, relying far too much on “vibes” and kept afloat only by solid production.
The cinematography and visual construction of this film were its crowning element. Every shot was composed intricately, utilizing shadows, set design, and color (or rather, lack of) to establish a strong tone.
Unfortunately, the dialogue and storytelling were virtually impossible to understand; in fact, I had to stop watching every once in a while and ask Tarush, “What the heck is happening?!” I know why Joel Coen wanted to keep the script written in Shakespearean English, staying true to the source material and whatnot, but this made the whole movie entirely inaccessible. All I understood was the beginning and the end; the rest of the plot was lost as I desperately tried to decipher the captions and read facial expressions. And even those were, to put it frankly, mediocre.
I agree with Tarush when he says Kathryn Hunter delivered a bewitching performance, but other than her, I thought everyone else did an aggressively average job. Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, both Oscar-winning performers, had the opportunity to do what Florence Pugh in MIDSOMMAR and Joaquin Phoenix in THE JOKER had done before: play a character who melts into absolute madness and take the audience on a psychological rollercoaster ride. Instead, their performances felt almost tame.
If THE GREEN KNIGHT had not been released just five months before this, I might have rated THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH a little bit higher. But, I found myself comparing the two movies, and everything that THE GREEN KNIGHT does well, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH fails to do. THE GREEN KNIGHT had great ensemble acting (thank you, Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Ralph Ineson), a powerful (and understandable) story, excellent world-building, and a strong tone that pulls you into the old Arthurian legend. THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH had fine acting (sorry, Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington), an incomprehensible plot, and a tone that though established well, failed to pull me in and keep me engrossed.
How familiar are you with the story of Macbeth? Should it matter?
Tarush – I was pretty familiar with the story and brushed up on it before watching the movie. And I think knowing it was critical to enjoying THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH. It’s a very, very faithful adaption – I imagine it’ll be a go-to high school English class screening for years to come. But that’s a problem – I found myself explaining plot points as they were happening.
Circling back on what Tavish said – Shakespeare would not have relied on “vibes” to keep his stories afloat; they must have been compelling for the original audience 400 years ago. I think there’s literary value in faithful adaptations, but doing so takes away from some of the mass appeal of Shakespeare’s stories. So although I felt in awe during parts of THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, I also equally felt not intelligent enough or cultured enough to grasp the movie, which is not a nice thing to feel.
Tavish – I had never read the story of Macbeth before watching the movie, and I agree with Tarush that background knowledge (that I lacked) is critical in enjoying this movie.
As I spoke heavily about above, it almost felt as if the film was written in a different language, and I could only sit through the movie because I had a handy-dandy translator with me (Tarush). The writing felt almost pretentious, and I wish Coen had modernized the dialogue somewhat to make it a little less impossible to understand (like David Lowery did in THE GREEN KNIGHT).
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH is in theaters on December 25, 2021, and Apple TV+ on January 14, 2022.