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#MovieMonday: Shakespeare’s Macbeth Production Design

By Mandy Widjojo

Recreating Shakespeare’s classics is no easy task. Nevertheless, Australian director Justin Kurzel and Adam Arkapaw (Snowtown 2011) joined forces and fulfilled this challenge that culminated into an impressive Macbeth production design. With a bold approach and a modern Scottish twist, the movie is arguably among the best film adaptations of its kind. Starring Michael Fassbender as the murderous traffic hero, and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, the screenplay is crafted directly from Shakespeare’s poetry with intimate study into the mad mind of Macbeth.

Intense artistry and crafts are found in every frame of this film, combining action, vision and sound to every setting, resulting in cinematic splendour and drama. Powerful visuals seen from Arkapaw’s cinematography skills are shot almost entirely on location in the Scottish Highlands in brutally difficult weather conditions with hour-long walk-ins on mountaintops, with up to 40mph wind, causing the crew to wait every 20 minutes to wait for the storm to calm.

All wrestles with nature aside, Arkapaw chose to shoot digitally for the Macbeth production design to be more contemporary and less nostalgic. The movie shows extensive panoramas of Scottish scenery with depth and textures behind the actors, as seen with the fog, fire, and rocky cliffs. Arkapaw said the reason behind the anamorphic shot was to “help create an expressionistic and painterly effect”.

During the opening war scene, the image tone switches from greenish, to yellowish, then to magenta. The use of colour temperature continues as the production team strives to invade Macbeth’s mind and cinematographically express Macbeth’s post-traumatic stress. There is a lot of vibrancy during Macbeth’s life as a great commander, but as the character loses his mind, the camera grew increasingly lifeless. The production team made this highly contrasting scenes possible by creating aesthetics for a softer film look and a harder digital look. Heavenly images are shown throughout some of Lady Macbeth’s scenes, while a sepia tone was used during the banquet scene where Macbeth sees the ghost of the man he murdered.

Inspired by painters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio, the movie needs no more reason to prove itself as a mastery work of art. Kurzel and Arkapaw’s strong elements of staging of action, paired with a rich interpretation of such great piece of literature, and excellent cinematography, successfully accomplished the challenge.

Photos by Macbeth the Movie

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