Cannes gets a Fassbender ‘Macbeth’ suffering combat stress

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cannes 2015: Fassbender and Cotillard in a gamer-friendly ‘Macbeth’.

Grief over a child’s death, not ambition, drives the blood-soaked and haunted interpretation of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.The Variety rave (“scarcely improvable”) of the new “Macbeth,” which screened for London critics earlier this month, hit the ether seconds after the conclusion of Saturday morning’s Cannes festival press screening.He first came to prominence for his portrayal of a business executive addicted to sex in British director Steve McQueen’s sexually explicit Shame, before going on to play the brutal plantation owner in the same director’s 12 Years a Slave.The murderous treachery of Macbeth would today be diagnosed as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, Michael Fassbender told the press at the Cannes film festival.

It’s fitting intro music for the prolific 38-year-old actor, who’s made one bold choice after another since his 2008 breakthrough in Steve McQueen’s Hunger. Now Michael Fassbender has been hailed as one of the greatest screen actors to ever play Shakespeare, for his performance in the latest film version of Macbeth. Cannes hailed the premiere of the Australian director’s interpretation of the Shakespeare tragedy, the final film to screen in competition at the festival, which concludes tomorrow.

The actor, who plays Shakespeare’s tragic warrior in a new film adaptation by Australian film-maker Justin Kurzel, said the director helped him realise it was the cumulative effect of months of grisly battle that drives Macbeth to murder his king after the war is over. “Never did it occur to me before this that this character was suffering from PTSD,” he said. “You have a solider who’s engaged in battle month-after-month, day-after-day. The final Palme d’Or contender to screen at Cannes 2015 stars Michael Fassbender as the murderous Scottish general of Shakespearean tragedy and Marion Cotillard as his complicit wife. The film, among the most eagerly awaited at Cannes, is a grimly visceral adaptation of “Macbeth”, shot partly in Scotland, striking in the bleak beauty of its earthy violence.

Two of the world’s finest actors, they make a magnetic pair on and off the screen, prompting the French press to refer to them as the “royal couple” of Cannes, although they’re not romantically involved. Macbeth is a film of both natural elements and supernatural ones, directed by Australia’s Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) with an eye to maximizing the unforgiving mountain terrain of its Isle of Skye shooting locale and also the tortured mental state of its protagonists.

But he’s calling from Cannes, where on Saturday he attended the last-in-the-lineup premiere of main competition entry Macbeth, which sees him starring as Shakespeare’s Scottish rogue opposite Marion Cotillard. Searing to both the eye and mind, it’s like the Bard by way of The Blair Witch Project, resembling the horror classic with its exterior threats and interior terror, a malicious female entity and missing children also being common to both films.

If you’ve seen “300,” already you have a notion of the floating, slow-motion blood globules and fast/slow/fast/slow/fast film speeds Kurzel deploys in “Macbeth.” Some of it’s sharp and effective; a lot of it’s slick and gamer-friendly to a fault. The final weekend has arrived and we’ll soon be forced to readjust to normal life with reasonably priced food and people who actually give helpful directions.

Kurzel’s version of Shakespeare’s great tragedy opens with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard, laying one of their children to rest. The text adaptation of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy is quite efficient, paring away many characters and lines of action to make room for Kurzel’s visual preoccupations. Fassbender praised her as “the best in the business” and an actress “who brings a grace to everything she does”. “I’ve never felt so much pressure tying to embody a character,” said Cotillard, speaking in French. “This is the first time in a film that I’ve found it difficult to slip into the character. In a subsequent battle scene Macbeth is shown hallucinating images of the witches that will deliver the prophesy that predicts his tyrannical path to power. “We know from soldiers today coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan that they have these hallucinations,” Fassbender said. “You could be walking down the Croisette here and then it’s Basra.

They don’t have much time to grieve together, because Macbeth must take up arms to protect King Duncan (David Thewlis), and indeed all of Scotland, from threats both within and without the realm. Macbeth is Kurzel’s second feature after Snowtown, the director’s take on the Snowtown “bodies-in-barrels” murders, which were committed in Australia during the 1990s. Macbeth emerges triumphant, his face smeared with warrior paint, blood and mud, but he soon falls prey to a trio of witches who seem to have emerged from the wild grass of the battlefield. But in the post-screening press conference the actors and Kurzel talked about the Macbeths as grieving parents trying to reconnect in some way, while getting ahead politically.

While the play hasn’t been taken up by film directors as frequently as some of the Bard’s other works, it has been memorably adapted by a few celebrated directors — notably Roman Polanski in 1971 and Akira Kurosawa in 1957’s “Throne of Blood”. Peter Bradshaw was a fan, giving it four stars, praising its “operatic verve” while others were mixed: It’s a grim version of a grim play and after it finished, Henry Barnes headed to the press conference to see what the two stars and director Kurzel has to say about the shoot.

They prophecize trouble for Duncan’s realm (“Fair is foul and foul is fair”) and also foretell Macbeth’s ascension to the throne, a transition that won’t happen peacefully. Fassbender noted that Cotillard’s performance was shot through with “loneliness.” Kurzel’s wintertime locations shooting outdoors, in Scotland, accentuated the vastness of the surroundings. But while Macbeth is all too eager to make the prediction come true, as is Lady Macbeth, the conventional reading of Shakespeare’s Scottish play that the couple is motivated by blind ambition doesn’t really apply to this telling of the tale.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, before moving to Killarney in Ireland with his German father and Irish mother, Fassbender’s career began to take off in 2008, when he played the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in McQueen’s film Hunger. Fassbender consulted with PTSD-afflicted veterans of the Iraq War and other recent conflicts as part of his elaboration preparation for a role he admitted he found “pretty terrifying” to take on, although he’d previously been involved in two stage versions of Macbeth as a young actor. Individual images in his “Macbeth” carry real impact, such as the overhead shot near the end of Macbeth and Macduff, both bloody messes, kneeling, as the army marches straight past them on the way to Scotland’s uncertain future. Cotillard, the French Oscar-winner who’s in Cannes for a fourth consecutive year, said that she found playing Lady Macbeth in English with a Scottish accent difficult.

It remains to be seen how the Palme d’Or jury, headed by Joel and Ethan Coen, will react when awards are distributed Sunday night at the close of the festival. Fassbender may have had a good, even great Macbeth in him, but he’s been encouraged or allowed to deliver every line in a monotonal, whispery burr, and the rhythms of the exchanges go slack at odd places. While Pixar’s major “emotion” picture Inside Out caused a bigger splash earlier this week, there was still a small amount of room for another hyped animation to provide respite from all the incest/death/death by incest dramas that have been depressing the lot of us here in Cannes.

We’d always been talking about genres, ever since we made [2009 short film] Man on a Motorcycle and realized how much we enjoyed working together and wanted to do it again. The three plan to reunite for another movie, a screen adaptation of the video game Assassin’s Creed. “It reminded me of how small landscapes like that made us all feel and how intimidating it can be. Kurzel’s solution, to mixed results, is to lay on with crimson and orange color saturations, the bone-crunching and this-knob-goes-to-11 sound effects.

I’d guess Todd Haynes’ “Carol”; Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin”; “Son of Saul” by Laszlo Nemes; the Yorgos Lanthimos black comedy “The Lobster”; and “Mountains May Depart” by Jia Zhang-ke. Well that’s what someone just paid at an auction to raise money for AIDS/HIV research for a sea-based meal with perennial Oscar bridesmaid DiCaprio. This year, the competition was ruff and just narrowly beating out Colin Farrell’s trusty sheepdog/brother in The Lobster was winner Lucky the Matipoo in six-hour epic Arabian Nights.

The prize, decided on by a group of British journalists including Peter Bradshaw, is seen as a bit of an oddity by the natives. “Luckily, I like dogs,” a French reporter said to Yahoo News. “But seen from the French perspective, this is a bit bizarre. The British are weird.” More awards were handed out last night ahead of the big Palme d’Or reveal on Sunday and this time they were pinned to the Directors’ Fortnight, a non-competitive sidebar that still, confusingly, hands out honours.

Arnaud Desplechin’s coming-of-age drama My Golden Days, bittersweet Turkish drama Mustang and historical Colombian adventure Embrace of the Serpent all picked up prizes. With Justin, it’s such a treat to watch him work and say to yourself, “He’s doing exactly what he should be doing on this planet.” The expereince of working with him was exceptional.

But it was nothing but a joy for me to be working with Aaron Sorkin, a genius, and Danny Boyle, such an inspirational person and a wonderful filmmaker. There were High Street stores closing down because of internet sales, and so he imagined stores with 30 people working on the floor, one-on-one with the customers.

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