Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular works, a tragedy which continues to entrance audiences on stage and screen, four centuries after its first performance.
In director Justin Kurzel’s stunning new adaptation, Michael Fassbender plays the fatally ambitious Scottish king, executing a tour-de-force, career-defining performance, alongside a captivating Marion Cotillard as his scheming wife.Kurzel’s adaptation is a remarkably visual, cinematically striking piece in which Scotland takes centre stage. The film plays out against a backdrop of stunning crags, majestic waterfalls and vast mountain panoramas, all shrouded in a suitably numinous mist.
Filmed partly on location on the Isle of Skye, the most northerly and perhaps the most beautiful area of Scotland, Macbeth celebrates and embraces its illustrious landscape.
Recognising the opportunities the film could provide for Scotland, tourism board VisitScotland has entered into an exciting collaboration with STUDIOCANAL, Macbeth’s distributors.
This collaboration began with a UK premiere in the vibrantly gorgeous Scottish capital of Edinburgh on Sunday 27 September 2015. Fassbender, Kurzel and the talented cast and crew flocked to the city’s iconic glass Festival Theatre for the premiere.The city’s inhabitants came out in force to hail Macbeth, lining the red carpet to glimpse the stars and a taste of the glamour.
As for me, less half an hour before I was supposed to attend the Macbeth premiere, I was watching torrents of pouring water leak through the ceiling of my friend Faye’s rickety Victorian Edinburgh tenement flat.
Macbeth, famed for its multifaceted characters and action, is also renowned for its supposed curse. It’s easy to scoff at, but at that moment it seemed no laughing matter:
“The Macbeth curse lives on!” screeched my friend Helena, the resident hair stylist of the group, who dutifully continued to curl our hair through the chaos.
Fifteen minutes later, after searching out all the buckets in the apartment and apologetically abandoning Helena, Faye and I were in a taxi, whisking through the cobbled Edinburgh streets on our way to the movie’s premiere.Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth is a must-see, faithful to and revelling in the spirit of Shakespeare’s play, using its striking visuals and arresting cinematography to ensure universal accessibility. The play’s timeless themes of war, ambition, politics and desire are conveyed to great effect. An evocative, intense whirlwind of emotion and drama, the audience gathered inside the nineteenth century gilded interior of the Festival Theatre adored it.
The screening was followed by a dazzling after party in the Victorian grand halls of the National Museum of Scotland. This was the perfect setting for the event, underscoring the historical link and celebrating the Scottish nation, not to mention perfect for a party!
Complemented by candles and distinctive red and purple lighting, the guests and actors mingled and drank speciality Talisker Whisky cocktails, enjoying a night at the museum.I was fortunate enough to chat to some of the talented cast at the after party. Aware of the arresting role Scotland plays in Macbeth, I was keen to hear the thoughts of the cast members about their experiences filming in Scotland and the importance of the location to the story.
Acclaimed British actor David Thewlis, best known for his role as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movie series, plays the usurped King of Scotland, Duncan. Thewlis was full of praise for Scotland, particularly Edinburgh, which he delightedly named as his favourite city.
“I only filmed in Scotland for a few days,” he explained “But we had amazing weather.” Thewlis was delighted to return to Scotland for the premiere and emphasised the importance of the location in the film. Kurzel’s Macbeth does not diverge from Shakespeare’s original vision, but a notable, effective deviation is the implication that Macbeth is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the opening scenes, a war-torn Macbeth sees a young boy die in a battle. The image of the dead boy becomes a recurring motif, troubling and driving Macbeth further into murder and tragedy.
It’s a memorable, lingering role and unsurprisingly fifteen-year-old Scot Greenan was thrilled to play the part, his first in a major movie. “I only had one line,” he laughed, but agreed it was an important role and emphasised what an amazing experience filming was.Greenan, who hails from Scotland, described Michael Fassbender as a wonderful co-star and mentor. Interestingly, he filmed his scenes in London, but agreed with his co-stars about the weight and significance of the Scottish setting.
Twenty-three year old Irish actor Jack Reynor plays King Duncan’s son, the rightful heir to the Scottish throne. Reynor is a rising star and one to watch: he recently played a charming solider who befriends a teenage Queen Elizabeth II in A Royal Night Out and memorably joined the Transformers franchise last year. He’s also set to star in the upcoming Jungle Book: Origins movie alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett.
Reynor described filming in Scotland as “a dream come true”, explaining he has family in Scotland and loves the country and the landscape.His thoughts were echoed by Kayla Fallon who plays one of the three witches who fatefully prophesise Macbeth ‘will be king hereafter.’
Fallon, also a Scot, balances her budding actor career alongside her PHD in Physics (no mean feat!) and described the importance of the scenery in Macbeth as comparable with the scenery in a Western movie.
“It’s intense and integral to the plot,” Fallon explained, and treated us to backstage stories of the cast and crew staying warm with water bottles and singing together, which she says strengthened the wonderful community atmosphere.
Attending the Macbeth Premiere was a superb and memorable experience. It is telling that the overall mood amongst the guests and actors alike throughout the night was one of appreciation and awe. Following a ten minute standing ovation and five-star reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, Macbeth looks set to make a real impact as it opens up a whole new audience to the beauty, history and power of Scotland.
Macbeth is released in the UK on 2 October 2015.
More information on the film and VisitScotland can be found at www.visitscotland.com/macbeth including the Macbeth trail which brings together the stunning film locations of Macbeth, the real-life places immortalised in the play and many other historic sites and dramatic landscapes connected to the story of the real Macbeth.