CANNES, France - Something wicked came the way of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday when Justin Kurzel premiered his bloody, stylish adaptation of "Macbeth" with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
Cannes hailed the premiere of the Australian director's interpretation of the Shakespeare tragedy, the final film to screen in competition at the festival, which concludes Sunday. The film, among the most eagerly awaited at Cannes, is a grimly visceral adaptation of "Macbeth," shot partly in Scotland, striking in the bleak beauty of its earthy violence.
To play the Scottish warrior, Fassbender gravitated to the idea that Macbeth suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He credited Kurzel for making the connection to contemporary warfare.
"That changed everything for me," Fassbender told reporters Saturday. "We know from soldiers today coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan that describe post-traumatic stress disorder and the fact that they have these hallucinations. They can be walking down the street here, the Croisette, and the next thing, it's Basra."
Cotillard drew the loudest raves for her Lady Macbeth. Hers is a tender version of the character, not the manipulative monster often depicted.
"There's a lot of love between these two characters," said Cotillard. "They're just too damaged to be able to turn toward something more luminous."
The challenge of tackling Shakespeare was especially steep for the French actress. Fassbender praised her as "the best in the business" and an actress "who brings a grace to everything she does."
"I've never felt so much pressure tying to embody a character," said Cotillard, speaking in French. "This is the first time in a film that I've found it difficult to slip into the character. I've often played dramatic character but never perhaps to this extent. All the characters I've played so far were full of light or held out some hope, but in this case, all is gloom."
In Kurzel's film, the Macbeths are less an ambitious, power-hungry pair than a desperate, childless couple in freefall.
"The tragedy about this couple is they look around them and everything they want is in the people and families around them," said Kurzel.
"Macbeth," which the Weinstein Co. is to release in theaters this fall, marks the most significant film adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy in several decades. While the play hasn't been taken up by film directors as frequently as some of the Bard's other works, it has been memorably adapted by a few celebrated directors - notably Roman Polanski in 1971 and Akira Kurosawa in 1957's "Throne of Blood." Fassbender said Kurosawa's was his favorite of previous "Macbeth" films.
The trio of Kurzel, Cotillard and Fassbender enjoyed working together enough to do it again. The three are also making a film of the video game "Assassin's Creed."
Asked what the best and worst thing about shooting in Scotland was, Fassbender replied quickly.
"Whisky and whisky," he said.
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