Ralph Fiennes Stars as Macbeth

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades


Moviegoers know British actor Ralph Fiennes from his roles in such acclaimed films as “The English Patient,” “The Constant Gardner,” and “Schindler’s List.” Or from all those Harry Potter movies where he frightened us as villainous Lord Voldemort (“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”).

However, you may not be aware that Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is considered one of the world’s foremost Shakespeare interpreters.

Fiennes excelled onstage at the Royal National Theater and at the Royal Shakespeare Company. His credits at London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre include “Twelfth Night”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Fiennes carried that affinity for the Bard over into the film world. Among his nearly 100 film roles, he has squeezed in such Shakespearean performances as “Richard III” and “Coriolanus.”

Now, he gives us a film version of “Macbeth.” You can see it at Tropic Cinema.

Originally staged at the Depot in Liverpool, the play moved from to the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh to Dock X in London, then to the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. The performance was filmed for theatrical distribution.

We all know the synopsis of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” from our high school English Lit class:
“Three witches tell the Scottish general Macbeth that he will be King of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth kills the king, becomes the new king, and kills more people out of paranoia. Civil war erupts to overthrow Macbeth, resulting in more death.”

The play is believed to have been written around 1606. A timeless tragedy, it delves into the corrosive effects of unchecked ambition.

As directed by Shakespeare stalwart Simon Godwin, this production of “Macbeth” is an updated retelling.

Shakespeare’s 11th-century battleground is turned into a modern-day war zone. The scenery includes the scorched remains of a car, rubble, oil tanks, drooping telephone wires, smoke with accompanying flames. We hear the buzz of warplanes overhead and see flashes of light as bombs drop.

Ralph Fiennes’ Macbeth emerges in army fatigues.

“You’re going to have no problem deciphering Fiennes’s beautiful modulated performance, which treats every sentence as something to be luxuriated in, every esoteric bit of verbiage as something with a meaning worth unlocking,” says one audience member.

As Macbeth, Fiennes delivers a controlled performance, gradually becoming manic and monstrous. He is compelling “as a king who has turned erratic, obscene, impish in his lack of repentance.”

Olivier Award-winner Indira Varma’s Lady Macbeth is determined in her ambition for her husband, but also appears “soft-edged and vulnerable.”

At first, the three witches are seen as crawling, wretched, howling creatures. But closer examination reveals them to be ordinary “Gen Zers dressed in dungarees and Dr Martens.”

Macbeth and his Lady are the true monsters.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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