Macbeth Movie Madness, FINAL: Fassbender v. Stewart

As you (should) know (by now), we’re doing a March Madness-bracket style review of the many video adaptations of Macbeth. We’ve finished the first round and now we’re down to the last two…and today’s championship match-up:


the 2015 film, directed by Justin Kurzel with Michael Fassbender (the #5 seed)
the 2010 film, directed by Rupert Goold with Patrick Stewart (the #3 seed)

At this point, I usually ask, “So, how did we get here?”

But who cares? It’s this final match-up that matters.

We know the strengths:

Kurzel’s bravura visuals and film-making. Goold’s concept. Fassbender’s PSTD-tortured Scot. Stewart’s raging Stalin-esque general. Both with interesting and experimental edits. Kurzel’s blood-drenched violence. Goold’s frightening witches. Both are sensuous, with Cotillard’s sexual Lady and Fleetwood’s sexy Lady. Kurzel’s banquet is filled with dread, while Goold’s is some bizarre horrorshow. Kurzel’s tells the story cinematically, cutting lines, dialogue, and scenes; Goold keeps most of the text, but keeps the action moving. Both Macbeths are brutal, both Macbeths are brutal.

From a purely cinematic perspective, Kurzel delivers a masterful film, or at least I found it so. I’m not sure if a person who had never seen Macbeth would find it as masterful or interesting; I think such a viewer may be confused, left moorless without more of the text (but maybe I’m wrong, maybe all the visual storytelling–even when it veers into subtext–can carry the day). From a purely literary perspective, Goold’s production is masterful (of that I don’t think there can be much debate).

If this was a basketball game, I think it would be a triple overtime squeaker, with a buzzer-beater three-pointer to end the game.

Which do I prefer? It’s really a coin-flip. I really like them both. So which would I recommend to you, gentle readers? Both, of course. But which would I use in the classroom (if I was still there)? Ay, there’s the rub… I’d probably try to show both, but if I could only fit one into the schedule, it would be the Rupert Goold/Patrick Stewart production.

Both versions are that good. You can’t go wrong with either. But with this metaphorical gun to my head (call it a deadline), this is your champion:



Final bracket: JPG | PDF

3 Replies to “Macbeth Movie Madness, FINAL: Fassbender v. Stewart”

  1. While I can’t fault your decision, I’d love to have you watch the Folger Shakespeare Theater edition, co-directed by magician Teller & Aaron Posner and starring Ian Merrill Peakes & Kate Eastwood Norris. Though Fleetwood’s Lady Macbeth is one of my two favorites (Scacchi, in Bogdanov, being my other), I personally favor Teller & Posner’s version over Goold’s in nearly every other category of importance.

    (Okay, I love the witches in Goold’s and in Teller & Aaron’s equally, too.)

    First Three Minutes:

    I hope you enjoy it! :^)

    1. Holy crap!

      I’ve never seen this. Oh, man…

      I was lucky enough to visit the Folger in the winter of 2013 when I saw their incredible Henry V… always wondered if they captured any of their productions. (Of course, I never looked on their site!) Now, I’m excited and bummed…I can get that Macbeth (one can never have too many plays at one’s disposal), but no Hank (or any other productions for that matter).

      I saw Teller/Posner’s The Tempest a few years back when it came to southern California… it was one of the two best Tempests I’ve ever seen (my first Tempest was my first Shakespeare, when I was just fifteen…nostalgia has put it up on a pretty damned high pedestal–of course, Anthony Hopkins as Prospero doesn’t hurt).

      Thanks for the suggestion; I can’t wait to watch the whole thing!

  2. Glad to be of service. :^)

    I’ll keep this bookmarked and check back for after you’ve watched it. Can’t wait to hear what you think of their “Tomorrow” sequence.


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