“Macbeth” on Apple TV +, electrifying adaptation of Shakespeare's play

In a magnificent black and white, and by skilfully mixing what makes the magic of cinema and theater, Joel Coen delivers a chilling version of Macbeth. His adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy is available on Apple TV+ from this January 14th.

The hammering on the castle door is insistent like the blows of a royal sergeant: a dull, infernal noise, evoking a terrible moral debt. This noise comes back throughout the astonishing adaptation for the screen of Macbeth that Joel Coen offers us – and if we had to summarize the film by a single sensory experience, we could reduce it to this stubborn and chilling clash.

But the film is not limited to that, far from it. This new take on Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy is very respectful of the original [en dehors des coupes, le texte est conservé tel quel], it extracts the smallest fibers from the carcass, right down to the tastiest.

Strange as a daydream

This is the first film the Eldest Coen has made without his younger brother, Ethan, though much of the duo’s shared obsessions – as we can appreciate them in Inside Llewyn Davis, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man and so many other feature films – are very present here and just as disturbing. The sadistic humor of fate, the convoluted plots that go wrong, the mechanisms of crime and punishment: everything suggests that Coen makes Macbeth (played by Denzel Washington) the classic scapegoat of the dark movie*, and his wife (camped by Frances McDormand), the prototype of the fatal Woman*.

Shot in a perfectly monochrome, brilliant, magnesium-style light, the film is cold, strange and lucid like a daydream. The nude, angular settings blend into the abstraction as we approach the edges of the image of almost square proportions. The thin bushes stretch menacing fingers towards the walls; the pointed windows gap like coffins. “Terrible hours and strange things?” [citation empruntée au début de l’acte II, scène IV]. Come closer, ladies and gentlemen, come closer!

The terrifying triple witch

The film begins with a word, written on a black screen: WHEN. It is obviously the one who opens the first line of the play, uttered

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Robbie Collin

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