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The Scottish Play in Almost Real Life

How lucky we are to live in a land not cursed by men's more beastly and short-sighted nature. Justin Kurzel's vision of Macbeth reminds of this in the most macbre and bloody of terms. What made the story so devastingly dark were the cuts from the original script: no comic relief and the witches minimalist role. Add to this the cold and dim images of the castle, the slow-motion gore, the barren landscapes and a powerful, yet droning musical score and you have a mega gloomy perspective on what humanity can be. The film put me in such a state of melancholy that I had to reread Macbeth as soon as I got home to see what it was that I missed: no witches brewing around a caldron and no porter's puns.

Why did Shakespeare add these fantastic features in the first place? Relief of tension? Maybe, but the film managed to maintain a high level of tension throughout and perhaps leaves a more lasting impression because of it. Maybe also, if you present tyranny from a single sperspective you might lose the audience to propaganda, but morality plays were dominant in that period and it doesn't get much more heavy-handed than that. I don't suppose they lost the audience, but they also didn't withstand the test of time. People aren't making movies about the morality plays. On the other hand, if you only present the injustice of the case then you might drive the audience to riot.

Perhaps comic relief and the witches brew offer a broader real-world perspective; no world with multitudes of people is dominated by one individual's tragedy at any moment. There are always injustices taking place in one form or another, but our vision is tragically myopic. Shakespeare reminds us of this with comic relief. Without it, there's no sense in the way the king's court responds.

When Macbeth is raving like a lunatic and hallucinating in front of his court before the feast, why doesn't somebody say, "Hey bro, you crazy. You're not fit to be my king." Why can't McDuff just say that right then? If everybody sees the madness, why doesn't somebody stop him? Perhaps might makes right and Macbeth just proved how mighty he was on the battle field. Perhaps also, society is based on a hierarchical structure which prevents such an action. A third perhaps might also include a lacking imagination on the part of the court in that the only way they can imagine stopping Macbeth is to kill him which would put their immortal soul in the same predicament as Macbeth's. I guess it also wouldn't make for much of a play if McDuff just stopped Macbeth early.

In any case, there was an aspect of it that didn't feel believable in the movie because the only thing we saw as an audience was the insanity of Macbeth which should've been stopped if the court was watching the same thing. Comic relief breaks tension and provides the distraction of everyday life which makes the court's inaction more plausible.

In all my gratitude for a life free of might making right and with the insight of Shakespeare on the consequences of insane leaders, I cannot resist. "Hey Donald Trump. You crazy. You're not fit to be my president." Sure, Trump's not killing anybody (that we know of), but his political stance on immigration and ideas on the treatment of people of Islamic faith is pretty bat-shit if not unamerican.

Macbeth is playing at the Sie FilmCenter. I highly recommend both the film and the center.

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