MACBETH – REVIEW: Michael Fassbender murky, mumbling and murderous Scottish noble mucks about in the mist.

Justin Kurzel – of Snowtown fame – directs a new adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Already creditably served by an Orson Welles version and Rom Polanski’s bloody take, Kurzel’s Macbeth is a beautifully rendered piece of out and out gloom. Set in the cold forbidding boglands of Scotland and in a period aggressively Dark Aged, Fassbender is the Laird who, with the goading of Witches and wife (Marion Cotillard), decides to hasten his upward mobility with some judicious well placed stabbing.

If there is one criticism, it might be that the film is utterly drained of humor – the Porter scene (never actually funny, truth be told) being cut – and so is effectively a one note piece, a drone that is matched by the percussive, internal organ liquidating soundtrack. And yet like the music, it also holds a hypnotic power as blood is waded through and ambition leads to atrocity and on to destruction. Fassbender’s troubled soldier descends into madness and the whole world seems so consumed by blood, violence, sound and fury, that even the possibility of goodness seems to have had its throat cut late one moonless night.

The performances are all suitably intense, the direction and photography stylish, but it’s the screenplay that really deserves some praise. This guy can write.

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STRATFORD  – Julian Fellowes – the genius behind Downton Abbey – has roundly described William Shakespeare, thought by many to be the most prodigious talent who ever wrote in the English language, as ‘a lowlife c*nt who couldn’t write for toffee.’

Mr. Fellowes was promoting his new version of Romeo and Juliet directed by Carlo Carlei  and starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth as the star-crossed lovers when he launched into what only can be described as a ‘diatribe’ and/or ‘rant’. Fellowes fumed:

People are always asking me how can I have a writing credit on a film based on a Shakespeare play, how do you approach the great bard and so on. Well, I have to say it was easy because the jumped up little glove merchant from Stratford Upon Avon deserves nothing more than withering contempt. For a start, he’s ill mannered, with many lewd jokes and a very rough sense of decorum and etiquette. I mean the families in Romeo and Juliet – the Montagues and the Capulets – are supposed to be noble, but they’re not even English!

Fellowes went onto say that Shakespeare’s grammar was ‘appalling and his spelling leaves a lot to be desired as well.’

When it comes down to it, one of these old theater luvvies simply can’t compete with the evolved talent of a modern television author of my standing and (and I’m not ashamed to say it) breeding

Fellowes also spoke of his desire to make Romeo and Juliet more English, even forcing through a last minute name change.  

Julian Fellowes’ Rodney and Jennifer is to be released in 2014.