In his first outing without his brother Ethan, Joel Coen is adapting William Shakespeare’s dark tragedy Macbeth. Coen, the writer and director, has kept us all waiting for any footage from his adaptation, starring two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington and four-time Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Yesterday, A24 finally gave the world its first glimpse of the film, alongside a release date.
The teaser shows intriguingly little but it is enough to display the gorgeous black and white cinematography courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel. Coen decided to shoot Macbeth entirely on sound stages, and in 4:3 aspect ratio to give the film an ethereal feel and to make it feel untethered from reality, and that vibe is certainly achieved in the trailer. The haunting musical score comes from long-time Coen Brothers collaborator Carter Burwell, and here he seems ready to impress with a beautiful score to match the haunting atmosphere.
What can we expect from Macbeth? Shakespeare’s play is one of the most famous tragedies of all time. It’s been performed almost continuously since its premier in 1606. And if you go in expecting a happy Hollywood ending, you might leave disappointed—it is called The Tragedy of Macbeth, after all. It is a dark and bleak play; hope is vacant, and despair comes in spades. Macbeth is a story of ambition, greed, and how power corrupts. In this trailer, we see very little of Washington’s take on Macbeth and even less of McDormand’s Lady Macbeth, not even hearing a word from either of them. It seems Coen and co. are keeping us waiting to hear any of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquies or poetry from the play’s leads.
We only hear one line from the play in the teaser, said by the Second Witch in Act IV, Scene One as Macbeth approaches them for a second time: “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes” (in this film, all three witches are played by Katheryn Hunter). Coen seems to be leaning into the play’s more supernatural elements with this adaptation, and so his first (and, thus far, only) words warn that something unpleasant is on the horizon…
Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth releases in cinemas 25 December 2021, and on Apple TV on 14 January 2022.
Words By Lewis Royle
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