*. Shakespeare adapts well to the boardroom. It’s often been said that the twenty-first century is a neo-feudalist civilization, so the translation from kings and queens to CEOs and business rivals usually works pretty well, all things considered. I’ve seen Macbeth played before in modern dress as a tale of corporate climbing and thought it worked, with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth easily recognizable as upwardly mobile yuppies.
*. That’s the way they’re played here, with Elias (Macbeth) and his wife Clara teaming up to take over the presidency of a Brazilian bank. They already have it all — “money, a beautiful house, and three cars in the garage” — but Clara wants something more. She wants power.
*. As with any updating of Shakespeare a lot of the interest comes from wondering how they’re going to translate key actions and speeches into a modern setting and vernacular. And for the most part the process is well handled here. I particularly liked Elias’s dismissive reading of the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” line at the very end. Life is meaningless, no matter how many cars you have in the garage.
*. Alas, one change for the worse is that for all their boastfulness about being alpha-male masters of the universe, bankers are wimps compared to medieval Scottish warlords. Elias isn’t a very scary guy
*. Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth came out the same year and went for a more traditional approach, down to the Scottish accents. Nevertheless there are similarities in sensibility. Both movies have an emphasis on the scenic, for example, though Vinicius Coimbra is more interested in architectural elements along modernist lines.
*. Also similar is Lady M’s use of sex as leverage. In Kurzel’s film she screws her man’s spirit to the sticking point by screwing him. In this film Clara is even more in charge by climbing on Elias’s face during the same scene. I guess they didn’t do that as much in the eleventh century.
*. Given that they had Heitor (the bank president, or Duncan figure) over for dinner, drinking wine, etc., couldn’t they have just poisoned him? It seems like stabbing him to death was just making a lot of extra work for themselves, not to mention the way it ruined a perfectly good chair and rug.
*. I like how the damned spot is treated as something more than a moral stain. It’s a blemish on the décor and (at least in dreams) the blood destroys a set of what must be impossibly high thread-count sheets. You see Clara washing her hands and all you can look at is that wonderful sink.
*. Instead of Heitor’s son (a pathetic aging boho here) or a Macduff figure pursuing Elias, we have the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system in the form of a dogged police investigator. There’s no point even telling Macduff to lay on, as you know Elias is screwed as soon as the forensics team shows up.
*. The dynastic angle is dropped completely. It’s clear that Heitor’s son isn’t taking over the bank presidency, and Banquo (Cesar) has no son. Elias and Clara, meanwhile, are DINKs (though mention is made of their having had a child who died as an infant). I guess this says something about us too. The children of the ruling class will be provided for by way of trusts. Their parents don’t even want them to go into the family business.
*. I thought Kurzel’s film had an interesting take on Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane. I hadn’t seen this movie yet, where it’s treated in a way that is magically surreal.
*. I wanted to like this movie more than I did, but after a promising set-up it really settles down in the second half to a pedestrian episode of CSI: Brazil. It’s definitely interesting, if just to see how all the familiar parts will be handled, but seems bled of passion. I can feel Elias’s greed, but not his ambition; his fear of being discovered but not his drive to be “safely thus.”
*. But then this may be as authentic as Macbeth gets in the twenty-first century. Global capitalism has made our world smaller. Take a look at any list of the richest people in the world. Who among them could rise to the level of tragedy?