After a successful showdown with an enemy gang, Macbeth (Sam Worthington), a loyal henchman to his crime boss Duncan (Gary Sweet), is convinced by three mysterious and strange young women that he will one day assume a position of great power. His ambition fuelled, Macbeth confides in his beautiful drug addicted wife (Victoria Hill) - a woman mad with grief over the death of their young child. Spurred on by this, Lady Macbeth hatches a plot for Macbeth to kill Duncan so he can rule over the gang himself. Macbeth is reluctant, but obsessively in love with Lady Macbeth, he cannot resist her murderous plan, which leads to further foul deeds and revenge.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Any new adaptation of Shakespeare which retains the original text but sets the action in a modern timeframe creates a permanent tension for the audience (those that are familiar with it, at any rate) in anticipating how the filmmakers will translate 400 year old circumstances. For most of the film, we are on the alert for inventive translations and relocations. How, for example, does Birnam wood march on Dunsinane in 2006? Geoffrey Wright and Victoria Hill have the answer - but I won't spoil it here.
They also have the answer for transporting a madly ambitious couple like Macbeth and his lady, from the friction of 17th century feudal princedoms to the gangland of 21st century Melbourne. That transportation is made relatively easy from a character point of view, since greed, ambition, power, murder, family, betrayal and empire building are all still part of the human condition. Not that there is a literalness to the setting, and the universality of the work is paramount, but the Australian accents are no hindrance to the text, nor to the film's mood. This is crucial, because we have to accept hearing Shakespeare's lines in today's Australian voices. (Baz Luhrmann's modern treatment of Romeo + Juliet avoided that particular issue, being set on the fictional Venice Beach of a multi-ethnic America.)
But what about those witches? Drug-induced apparitions or maybe figments of Macbeth's imagination...? In any case, they're younger and sexier than they are in the play.
Once the settings, costumes and props had been re-imagined, it was all up to the actors to breathe life into their characters; Sam Worthington satisfies both physically and emotionally as Macbeth, who might be ambitious but is basically a decent guy underneath, until his manipulative lady eggs him on to commit a murder, frame others for it, and then kill them, too. That's what the play is about, really: once you start killing to gain something, there is a chain reaction set in motion which leads to an expanding pool of blood.
Victoria Hill as Lady Macbeth, Steve Bastoni as Banquo, Gary Sweet as the ill fated Duncan, Lachy Hulme as Macduff and all the rest are well able to wrangle the dialogue and make it meaningful, bringing to life three dimensional characters, doomed to fight for survival within their world of violence.
Technically and creatively excellent, Macbeth also enjoys a wonderful score, outstanding design elements in all departments (a dark, brooding and dangerous mood hangs over it), and goes to show that Australians can tell their own stories in more ways than one.
Review by Louise Keller:
Just as Baz Luhrmann re-imagined Romeo and Juliet in a contemporary setting, Geoffrey Wright has imprinted his own style on Shakespeare's Macbeth. The themes of ambition and betrayal are twisted boldly into a strikingly visual and cinematic work, where shadows lurk as evil is plotted. Adapted by Wright and actress Victoria Hill, the script is impressively economical, yet those familiar with The Bard's immortalised words will not be disappointed. With its strong cast headed by Sam Worthington, the result is a gripping and sharply crafted film layered with emotional density.
Evil is portrayed like a character - be it in the ticking of Macbeth's troubled mind, the violence in the streets or in the form of the seductive trio of young witches who flaunt their tattooed bodies, long hair and scarlet nails. The Melbourne docklands are the setting - although the darkly lit rooms, the plush décor and stylised wardrobe could be anywhere. Such mood and style is captured cinematically and musically. The score is strong and deliberate, always hitting a nerve.
In the updating of the story, mobile phones, cameras and screens play a part, and guns are included as part of the weaponry. The violence is savage at times, as it needs to be. There a several pivotal scenes including the one when the deranged Macbeth stabs his boss Duncan (Gary Sweet, effectively cast), before returning to his reclining Lady, who decides on action of her own. A diverse and excellent cast with Hill's Lady Macbeth appropriately steely, and I especially like Lachy Hulme's Macduff and Mick Molloy's Brown.
Wright has made far too few films since his controversial Romper Stomper 14 years ago. He certainly hasn't lost his touch.
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GEOFFREY WRIGHT INTERVIEW
CAST: Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Lachy Hulme, Steve Bastoni, Gary Sweet, Kat Stewart, Matt Doran, John Molloy, Mick Molloy
PRODUCER: Martin Fabinyi
DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Wright
SCRIPT: William Shakespeare
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Will Gibson
EDITOR: Jane Usher
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David McKay
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 21, 2006