Quick-Thoughts: Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth

As weird as this may sound, Joel Coen is now the only person I trust to adapt a Dr. Seuss book for the big screen.

The Coen Brothers aren’t widely known for adapting stories that aren’t there’s, at least, not completely. There 1996 classic Fargo was based on a true event, but one written around to fit an emendated narrative with the brothers’ own fictional characters in it, yet for the past couple decades, their cosmical praise has actually closely been held accountable for the original way in which they’ve revitalized our expectations of quality through their own distinct spin on crime and comedy genres; that was until they made their renowned masterpiece in 2007 No Country for Old Men: a direct conversion of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name with slight changes made to its layout. Since then, it wouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to see the brothers take on another relatively faithful adaptation of material that isn’t theirs.

The Tragedy of Macbeth though — the first non-“Coen Brothers” movie and now officially just a “Coen Brother” picture — is wickedly a near clear-cut emulation of its source material, literally using the same complex and difficult to understand language of Shakespeare in each phrase of its dialogue, mandatorily requiring its viewers to read subtitles. What may be the strongest point though of Joel’s cinematic telling of the acclaimed classic, is how he’s able to bring what essentially is an enhanced “play stage” to life with Stefan Dechant’s surreal production design and Bruno Delbonnel’s concentrated cinematography. Macbeth, in all it’s straightforward drama that’s otherwise heavied by Shakespeare’s classic use of dissecting every minute feeling felt in every minute character presumption, is breathed of new life in how Coen works the collaboration of cinematic range and freedom – whether it’s in the performances, shot collaging, or special effects – with the visual tropes of a theater show. 

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked, Joel Coen Ranked

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is now playing in select theaters and will be available to stream on Apple TV+ January 14th. 

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