This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Macbeth

My 12th grade English class studies Macbeth. My favorite production to show them has always been the filmed minimalist stage production with Sir Ian McKellen as Macbeth and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. Granted, it can be a little boring for some students who are used to flashy and colorful video games and movies, but I show it anyway, because at least there are actors that the students recognize: McKellen, from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies as Gandalf, and Dench as M in various James Bond movies.

Nevertheless, it is very minimalist as I said. Almost all the characters wear all black (except Duncan, who wears all white). There’s virtually no set. Just a blank, black stage and an oft-used fog machine for atmosphere. In all, I think the fact that it is so true to text, and that the actors perform the text so well, makes up for what it lacks in sets and costumes. But my students don’t always feel that way. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to retire the McKellen/Dench production.

Enter Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Just watching the new trailer is incredibly exciting for me. In the 1978 filmed stage production, you see no battle scenes (except when Macbeth battles Macduff one-on-one), because the battles, true to Shakespeare and all classical theatre, happen offstage and are merely referred to in dialogue. This new production takes Macbeth off the stage and into real life where battles and blood and gore are fair game.

This new Macbeth film’s director, Justin Kurzel, said recently, “[It’s] a re-imagining of what wartime must have been like for one of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition set in war-torn medieval Scotland… It felt much more dangerous than I’d ever seen before from adaptations of Macbeth.”

Certainly more colorful and interesting for today’s students. Watch the U.S. trailer for yourself:

Macbeth will be released in select theaters on December 4, 2015. In other words, not soon enough!

Are you looking forward to this new production? Discuss in the comments!