Saturday, December 9

Joel Coen was missing Shakespeare, for good | Culture

It sounds exotic and unusual that in these unfortunate or possible times of cinema (and of life), a creator insists on making a film adapting Shakespeare, the most sublime writer who has ever existed, although I very much doubt that he has massive or even minimal online audience. Shakespeare was the ultimate artistic obsession for Orson Welles, who achieved great moments in chimes at midnight and it was patchy in other adaptations. Mankiewicz maintained strict fidelity to Shakespeare in the extraordinary Julius Caesar. Polanski made a Macbeth of which what I remember most was his bloodiness.

And now it’s Joel Coen, creatively divorced for the first time from his brother Ethan, who has insisted on returning to Macbeth, in telling the story of that Scottish nobleman who killed his king, of the ambition for power in a supreme and tragic degree, of the fateful designs of the disturbing witches, of his predatory alliance with his wife, the implacable lady Macbeth. It gives the impression that this project was a belated whim for Joel Coen, a director who, for better or for worse, has always made the films he wanted, oblivious to conventions and transparently commercial projects. You can expect any eccentricity from these brothers, but it is very meritorious that Joel Coen dares right now to make a new version of Shakespeare. In black and white, with a visual style that often reminds me of German expressionism, moving away from the academicism of filmed theatre, creating powerful images. It is a rare film in the best sense, risky, that captures the spirit of Shakespeare, that man who knew everything about human nature, its vertigo, its splendors and its depths, its uncertainties, desires, contradictions, grudges, fears and demons that dwell in the hearts and brains of people. All this expressed with an incomparable language.

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My prejudices remain intact before the experimentalism without cause, or to introduce modernities in the adaptation of the classics (I saw in the theater some infamous, although highly promoted work of Shakespeare in which the characters wore jeans and continuously swore). I attend the tragedy of Macbeth of Joel Coen with sustained attention, believing the abominations that the characters commit, feeling their anguish, hypnotized with the predictions of the fateful witches.

Joel Coen, knowing how difficult it would be to place his strange product on the market, has surrounded himself with an actor and an actress who offer the best guarantees. He is Denzel Washington, a guy who often makes a living making clones of excruciating avengers and vigilantes facing evil, but also an actor with age-old personality, presence and talent. Y lady Macbeth is played by Frances McDormand, a superior actress who has no trouble appearing tough, devious, and tragic. There is a very elaborate photography and the always appropriate music of the admirable Carter Burwell, the permanent soundtrack in the Coen’s cinema. I have the feeling that the director has been comfortable in the troublesome adventure of re-adapting Shakespeare. What I don’t know is the echo that his attractive proposal will achieve.


Direction: Joel Coen.

Interpreters: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand.

Gender: drama. United States, 2021.

Duration: 105 minutes.

Premiere: January 14.

Platform: Apple TV.

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