By: Esther Liu, Humans of McMaster Staff Writer
Please introduce yourself.
Santee Smith, Tekaronhiáhkhwa iónkiats, Kahnyen’kehàka, niwakonhwentsio:ten, Wakeniáhten. Ohswekén nitewaké:non.
My name is Santee Smith, Tekaronhiáhkhwa, I’m from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Turtle Clan from Ohswekén also known as Six Nations of the Grand River. I have a long connection to McMaster University, first as an undergraduate student in the faculty of physical education and psychology. [Now], I am the current chancellor of McMaster University.
Please give a brief description of what you do as the chancellor and at the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.
I'm also the artistic director of the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Kaha:wi in the Mohawk language means to carry. We are a performing arts organization who is really focused on embodied storytelling and sharing Indigenous narratives that are often underrepresented or misrepresented in popular mainstream culture.
As chancellor, I have the honorary position of being the head of the university. I am responsible for convocation, my name is on every single student's diploma. I am also the chair of the honorary degree committee and I also am a speaker at events. For example, the upcoming Remembrance Day event, I'll be delivering a message and [am] responsible for any other messaging and connection to faculties that would like the chancellor there to connect with the students, staff and faculty.
What inspired you to go into this work?
It was an invitation. I have a very back-and-forth connection to academia. I have a professional artistic career but also my background is supported through two degrees at McMaster University and a master's degree from York University. One of the interesting things about being a chancellor at McMaster University is that you have to be a McMaster alumna, so I fit the hat.
Also, I had a connection over the years to the president's office and especially past president Patrick Deane, who visited Six Nations, who visited my family. I also have connections to the Indigenous studies department. Recently in 2018, [I was] a part of the Socrates project which brought in community artists and speakers to share their work with the McMaster campus. So I was in-residency through Socrates and the Indigenous studies department and that's really how I became even more present in McMaster.
The work that I was doing as part of that was called the Mush Hole. The Mush Hole is a performance that shares the history of Canada's first residential school called the Mohawk Institute Residential School. My job not only as a creative, but as an Indigenous artist, is to share that truth and to educate others. I was invited by Patrick Deane to consider being chancellor. That was a wonderful surprise and something that I didn't plan for or didn't know was coming down the road for me in my life. So I gave it some important thought because of what I can contribute, especially due to my very busy artistic career, but also the important parts of representing the Indigenous and representing the arts and experiences that I would bring forward as chancellor.
What inspired you to become involved with the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre?
I was a dance artist and my training is in classical ballet. Since I was little, I attended the National Ballet School for six years. And then really, when I was a teenager, thinking about identity and being away from my home community and family, I felt something was missing. And I returned home. Then I pursued academics, but nothing really filled that passion and drive for performing arts.
The first opportunity I had to be creative and create choreography based on stories that are within my culture, I put two things together: my love of performance and body storytelling and sharing about my culture and being an Ohswekén Indigenous woman. My first choreography was in 1996. Since that time, I have been dedicated to creating, introducing new work and sharing with audiences around the world. Collaborating is a big part of it, being able to share with Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators.
What are your goals as Chancellor and as a dancer?
My goal for both is Indigenous representation and visibility. It's nice to see even for myself, people in positions that are — I don't want to say powerful in a colonial hierarchical power way, but that they're in positions of prestige and influence in offering that different perspective, in offering Indigenous perspective. For example, when I was growing up and studying classical ballet, I didn't have any role models who were Indigenous, except for one: Maria Tallchief. She was from the United States and she was a prima ballerina dancer.
My parents showed me her and wanted me to have an Indigenous role model. So I think that representation is really important, that offering different perspectives and stories, narratives that come from this land, Turtle Island, is really important. I want to do that as Chancellor, as an artist, as a speaker and offer that out both for role modelling within Indigenous communities and for everyone.
Do you have a favourite memory as chancellor?
For being chancellor, it was my installation in November 2019. That was the first time I became officially chancellor. Being a part of that ceremony and putting on my robes for the first time, being in the presence of all the graduates and the faculty on the stage and being able to hear the singing of my Indigenous colleagues and being dressed in robes with students within the Indigenous faculty. I would have to say that was a major highlight — a major life highlight — it was a bit surreal and it has a very ceremonial feeling to it.
Do you have a favourite memory regarding dance?
I had so many dance memories. Because all of my experiences are quite different and all of my productions are quite different, it would be hard to choose one. I love performing and I love performing artists. I just feel like out of all of the times of performing, the experience of falling into performance and being able to share with audiences in an 100 per cent committed, talk-inspired and dedicated way is why I do what I do.
Do you have a big takeaway from your experiences or message to others?
I think the biggest takeaway, for myself personally, that I continue to hold, is lifelong learning. Learning is never-ending. It keeps you inspired. It keeps you curious. It keeps you asking questions and developing and transforming. So, I hope to continue to be a lifelong learner. And I encourage everybody else to find that for themselves as well.
By: Vanessa Polojac
Established from a study conducted within the Hamilton community, McMaster associate professor of Social Work Mirna E. Carranza collaborated alongside Toronto based, Persian-Canadian actor, singer and writer Izad Etemadi to create a story that explores the re-occurring struggles, sacrifices and issues that many newcomers to Canada face, particularly women.
In partnership with the Immigrant Working Centre, Emergency Support Committee and Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Carranza’s research was developed through a series of interviews focused on immigrant women, their partners and children. The interviewees ranged from two to 35 years since their immigration to Canada. The objective was to understand the intersection between immigration, integration, trauma and mental health.
The idea of popular theatre was then brought to the attention of Carranza by the women whom she had interviewed.
“The women wanted an impact, rather than writing a report or a paper. I then began thinking, what can I do differently?” explained Carranza.
During this time of her research, Carranza met Toronto playwright Eternadi when he mediated a panel about Syrian refugees at the immigrants working centre. The two instantly bounded over their passion for storytelling and began conceptualizing performance ideas.
In May 2016, the process had began. Eternai was given transcriptions and transformed them into a piece of theatre. The play centres around four young women and intersperses monologues with group scenes, telling emotional and memorable stories of their experiences of being new residents to Canada.
Some of these stories include: a young women who had fallen in love with a Canadian while on vacation and was forced to leave everything behind in her home country, a 12 year-old girl who moves to Hamilton with her family and sees the city as a terrifying place and a women who had just immigrated to Canada and is being stripped away from her ethnicity to conform to the new society she is now apart of.
“I just readjusted some of the wording to create a narrative. Everything came from the mouths of these women,” explained Eternai.
We Are Not The Others was first performed by McMaster students at the Art Gallery of Hamilton during the time of the American election.
“You could see the mood change within the audience. It was such a vulnerable topic for the time,” said Ethernai.
“The women wanted an impact, rather than writing a report or a paper. I then began thinking, what can I do differently?”
Mirna E. Carranza
Associate professor of Social Work
Due to an overwhelming response from the first showcase, Ethernai and Carranza decided to hold open casting calls for young actresses within the local community. The cast was then composed of Rashanna Cumberbatch, who is a first generation Canadian actress to Guyanese parents, Heath V. Salazar a Columbian-Canadian Dora award winning trans writer, actor, singer and dancer, Sima Sepehri, who had immigrated to Canada from Iran at the age of six years old and works on shows such as Private Eyes, and Angela Sun Chinese-Canadian multi-talented performer who has been apart of SummerWorks, Paprika, and InspiraTO theatre festivals.
We Are Not The Others was one of 50 plays to be chosen to be apart of Hamilton’s 2017 Fringe Festival running from July 20 to 30. The vast majority of people come to this country with the idea of hope.” said Carranza. Using music, poetry, and the real words of immigrant women, We Are Not The Others took audiences into the world of immigration that is full of struggles, pain, tears and hope.
On the outskirts of campus, McMaster graduates prepare a story of an apocalyptic diner to be performed at the fourteenth annual Hamilton Fringe Festival. For many of those involved, ???????????????????? ???????????????????? preludes the next big step in pursuing a career in the local theatre industry in Hamilton and beyond.
Full story is available at https://www.thesil.ca/
On the outskirts of campus, McMaster graduates prepare a story of an apocalyptic diner to be performed at the fourteenth annual Hamilton Fringe Festival. For many of those involved, First Class preludes the next big step in pursuing a career in the local theatre industry in Hamilton and beyond.
First Class was first shown as part of the McMaster Theatre Programs’ graduating classes’ Honours Series Performances, and was selected via lottery to show alongside over 300 live performances from July 20 to July 30 at this year’s Fringe Festival.
The drama centers around three strangers trapped in a diner just days before the world ends. The three fight over the news of a spaceship, which is set to give the lucky few a first class ticket to a new, habitable planet.
McMaster Commerce graduate YiJian Zheng plays Benny, a young, gifted inventor with a villainous disdain for the poor, and who has had the privilege of having his ticket purchased for him by his parents.
Theatre program graduate Christina Stolte plays his foil. Her character, Callie, is a single mother, who is frantically finishing her application to earn a spot on the ship for her and her son.
The diner owner, Deejay, mediates the two and is played by Mohawk television and broadcasting student Funsho Elegbeleye.
The story explores themes of privilege, immigration and seeks to explore the grim question of who deserves to live or die when given the choice.
“I've always wanted to pursue a more artistic career. Singing, and [now] acting. I came to Mac mostly because my friends were here and they took commerce and my parents wanted to me have a commerce degree so that's what I chose. [But] my real passion is acting …"
Co-writer and co-director Omobola Olarewaju was able to insert her own experience as a former international student into the characters.
“Coming from privileged background in Nigeria I was able to have both ends of the privilege [experience] … So I was privileged back home and came here and the international student life isn’t quite as [privileged] as what I came from I noticed there are a lot of limitations based on the fact that I'm not a citizen,” said Olarewaju.
“Deejay's character is kind of in the middle … I put a lot of my own experience into because he is also an international … an immigrant at the end of the world. [He] doesn’t have food ration rights, doesn’t have any of the normal things that people are entitled to, but still makes things work.”
This year, Olarewaju graduated from theatre and film and the economics programs at Mac, and like other members of the First Class team, she is immediately seeking to further her career in the theatre or film industry. She is currently working on a book, continuing her life-long practice of writing, while also seeking opportunities to work in television and film.
Unlike his fellow cast members, Zheng entered McMaster planning to pursue a career in commerce. In his third year, this changed when an extra male role needed to be filled for the McMaster School of The Arts’ production of Lady In The Red Dress.
“I've always wanted to pursue a more artistic career. Singing, and [now] acting. I came to Mac mostly because my friends were here and they took commerce and my parents wanted to me have a commerce degree so that's what I chose. [But] my real passion is acting … so when my friend told me about this opportunity with Lady in the Red Dress I took it."
Zheng resides in Richmond Hill, and currently has a full-time job to support his endeavour into a potential full time acting career. He hopes that opportunities to work in theatre, whether that’d be finally landing a role in a musical or working in the technical aspect of production, and that those opportunities present themselves close to the GTA.
The Fringe Festival is a means of showcasing the Hamilton theatre community, and it is this community that has both Stolte and Elegbeleye hoping that they can launch their careers in Hamilton specifically.
“[Hamilton] might not seem like the place to go if you were looking to be a skilled actor but I feel like it will get there, and aim hoping to be part of the people who find that, inspire that or who bring that to life ... I feel that Hamilton is going to be [my starting point]. ... it already is. People see that at the Fringe,” said Elegbeleye.
Elegbeleye has been acting in a variety of different productions since childhood, and has performed for two years at McMasters’ African Students Associations’ Afrofest. Currently, he is working a working on a web series titled Catalyst.
“[Hamilton] might not seem like the place to go if you were looking to be a skilled actor but I feel like it will get there, and aim hoping to be part of the people who find that, inspire that or who bring that to life ..."
Stolte has been part of school and community theatre productions since her childhood. Originally hailing from Burlington, she also sees Hamilton as a place for making connections with theatre industry veterans.
"Some theatre in some location is awesome, but not so much in a career sense — more in a recreational sense. In Hamilton, I have a very distinct feeling that it is very productive in a career sense where you could get a lot of really good experience ... that will then help with furthering a career in acting or anything to do with theatre really,” explained Stolte.
While this may be the last chance to see First Class, it may not be long before the names behind the production appear again in Hamilton’s theatre and independent film scene. For these artists, writers and technicians, Hamilton continues to be an increasingly attractive place to hone their craft.
First Class will be play at Mills Hardware from July 20 to July 30. Show times and more information about the Fringe can be found at http://hamiltonfringe.ca/
In December of 2016, Westdale’s iconic movie theatre was put on the market. Opening in 1935, the 495 seat, 6630-square-foot, single-screen avenue was a staple of the Hamilton community.
At the time, Ward 1 councillor and longtime theatregoer Aidan Johnson had been working for over a year to designate the theatre as property of Cultural Heritage to help protect it under the Ontario Heritage Act.
“The cinema is an integral part of the original heritage landscape of Westdale Village. It is inseparable from Westdale itself. It needs to be protected,” said Johnson
The Westdale Cinema Group, a non-profit, was formed to purchase the theatre shortly after, and their offer was accepted in February. A group of individuals and organizations alike, they are continuing to find the donations needed to restore the theatre.
The planned renovations promise new washrooms, an expanded snack bar, new theatre seats, state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment, and an expanded stage to host theatre, music and lecture series.
Films remain a priority, but it is apparent that they wish to expand the functions of the area to make a multi-purpose venue.
“Through our Board of Directors, our goal is to create Hamilton’s premier cinema screening experience for art and independent films and a state-of-the-art exhibition space for music, readings, lecture, video streaming and public meetings,” said the group.
Despite these additions and changes, they also promise that the heritage and historic atmosphere of the theatre will remain intact with a restored 1935 façade, restored architectural detailing, a restored auditorium and the consistency of the front lobby snack bar and back lobby lounge.
While restoration of the theatre begins this month, the group still needs $1.5 million. They are accepting grants from all levels of government, but they need additional funds. Their method is a public fundraising campaign called, “Building Magic,” with reward levels similar to a Kickstarter with products and services from local companies and people featured.
The lowest starts at $19.35 with a custom designed pin by local designer Rachelle Letain. The mid levels include a special screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the film’s producer, multiple options for limited-edition prints, the ability to name a seat and the ability to have your message on the marquee for a week. The maximum level is
$10 000, which offers the full theatre for the night with unlimited popcorn and soft drinks for all attendees.
They are also accepting volunteers if you would like to contribute with time instead of money.
“As we build the new Westdale, we want the tradition of presenting magic to continue — whether visiting the Westdale, for film, music, theatre, or to hear an author.”
Read the full story here: https://www.thesil.ca/
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Last week, I went to see one of the Honours Performance Series plays, Unoriginal Sin. In the director’s notes, they write, “While we know that this will be something that may cause you discomfort, our overall goal is to make you really consider your everyday views on sex.” I take this to be the thesis of their play, but I don’t think the play successfully achieved their goal. They also stated that they wanted to “tackle the subject of sex in our times as honestly and directly as possible,” and open a discussion about the “complexities” that sex brings to our lives. Unfortunately, the characters were shallow — almost all were essentially the same characters with only two notable outliers — and the “complexities” of sex were watered down to scenes of people making out and dancing together.
I can’t express enough how boring and unoriginal this play was. Not even the masturbation or kissing scenes piqued my interest — both of which were just meant to be shock factors rather than much of a plot point. The humour was very uninspired. When one of the characters (Dylan) is seen flipping through Tinder, he makes a lot of jokes about the app. His gripes are the usual: he doesn’t like when people use group photos as their display photo. Of course the audience laughed — the experience is relatable, and Dylan simply named off everyone’s problems with their Tinder experiences.
Then, there’s a strange, borderline problematic, line. In one scene, Amy and Kyle are on a date — Amy, begrudgingly; Kyle, excitedly — and Kyle spends the whole time trying to convince her to have a good time, and Amy is just bratty about it. Then, Kyle defends his intentions by saying, “when you meet a great girl you have to go after her,” and then calls Amy beautiful. So, how is she a great girl, again? All he knows about her is that she’s attractive. Now, I assume that this was meant to be a subversive part, but I think that that assumption grants the play too much credit.
What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser. In one part of the play, two characters — named Kyle and Dylan — were talking about their plans for the evening, and Kyle made a joke about Dylan being on Tinder, Bumble … and then Grindr, which he and the audience chuckled about. What is the joke here? Is the joke that Dylan is gay? That he uses an app specifically for men who are gay? I don’t know why there was a pause to make it a joke, and I don’t know why the audience found it humorous.
The gay men were a strange piece of comic relief. Even at the end, when taking bows, they came out together with one hand on the other’s back. Why? For what? To continue to get the positive reaction they got when they had kissed on stage and everyone cheered?
Finally, I was confused about the costume design at the end of the play. Everyone was dressed in white. The associations with white are usually “purity,” and “virginity,” yet, at the end of the play, the virgin (Brooke) was no longer a virgin. When I asked one of the cast members what the directors’ intention was with this final costume, they were told that that was just the way it was, although the symbolism of the “pure” white clothing did not fit the tone of the play’s ending.
What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser.
The best parts of the play were those without dialogue. So much more was said in these parts, and the plot moved quicker during the tableau-esque moments.
This play didn’t make me uncomfortable for the reasons they may think — it made me uncomfortable that I had to watch rehashed jokes on stage and listen to an audience laugh and laud about gay men just doing normal things that even heterosexual couples do.
As a final note: I would love to lend my copy of The History of Sexuality by Foucault to the directors.
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By: Joe Jodoin
Eight years after the original Cloverfield was released in 2008, a new iteration of the movie has hit the big screen, but surprisingly, not as a sequel. Just by watching the trailer, there seems to be no connection to the original whatsoever. Producer J.J. Abrams has said that 10 Cloverfield Lane is “a blood-relative” to the original. I was very interested to see the movie and figure out how these two seemingly unrelated movies are connected.
A lot about this movie has made me very excited. First of all, nobody even knew this movie existed until the first trailer dropped in January. The trailer was also fantastic, and left a lot of mystery surrounding what the film was really about. Abrams has even described this film as his “mystery box”, which worked very well in generating excitement and buzz around it.
I felt terribly conflicted walking out of this movie, since overall I really enjoyed it. However, calling it a Cloverfield movie was completely unnecessary. It pretty much contains no connection to its 2008 predecessor, and it seems to have just gotten the title 10 Cloverfield Lane to generate more buzz and make more money.
You’re not supposed to know too much about the plot going in to this movie, as the mystery and surprise are the movies biggest strengths.
A girl gets into a car accident. She wakes up in a bunker with two men who say there was a chemical attack and the outside world is uninhabitable. But one of the men seems to be more than meets the eye, and our protagonist begins to wonder if staying with her captor is even more dangerous than life outside the bunker.
About 90 percent of this movie is filled with tension, scares, and nail-biting scenes, mainly driven by John Goodman’s performance as the unhinged man who built the bunker. His performance stands out, but is complemented by great directing from first-time director Dan Trachtenberg. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent as the female protagonist, and her character provides the lens through which the audience experiences the movie. John Gallagher Jr. is the third person in the bunker, and plays one of the construction workers who built it. These three actors are the only lead actors in the movie, and all three of them do excellent jobs keeping viewers entertained.
While a majority of this movie is incredibly well made and enjoyable, the ending is where things fall apart. Without giving away spoilers, there is a silly twist that makes what’s left feel pretty much pointless. The twist forces a completely different tone on the rest of the movie and takes away all the tension without an amazing payoff.
Not everyone will hate the ending as much as I did, but I’m sure everyone will love the bulk of the movie. I won’t say anything else, because the less you know about this movie, the better. I don’t think it will by as re-watchable as some other movies this year, because a lot of the fun comes from not knowing what will happen next, but I definitely think this movie is worth seeing.
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By: Cathy Huang
I recently had the pleasure of watching McMaster Musical Theatre’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Having already read the notorious play’s Wikipedia page beforehand, I was somewhat prepared for the song, “Message from A Nightingale” going into the show. I was not prepared, however, for just how offensive it would be. The number featured two white cast members in traditional Chinese qipaos (dresses) and chopsticks in their hair, something Chinese people don’t actually do, and another white cast member in a plain green dress and a rice paddy hat.
A musical meant to parody musicals in the 1920s — racism and all — written in 1998, and still performed to this day, does little to actually spark discussion about racism towards Asian people. If you read the program, you’ll see that the director chose to respect the source material rather than the actual minority group he would be hurting. I would like to know how he and the production team handled this with the “utmost care,” and how he thinks “Message from A Nightingale” will “provoke discussion rather than offense.” More importantly, how he thought he, as a white man, was in any way qualified to speak on the complicated and varied experiences of Chinese people.
As the red lanterns and cheap dragon kite descended from the ceiling, I figured it couldn’t get any worse, but then they started singing. The song began with terrible accents and ended with references to Chinese foods and replacing ‘l’ sounds with ‘r’s once the emperor, played by yet another non-Chinese cast member, waltzed on stage. Instead of having the few Asian cast members play Asian characters, white people were selected. If you’re wondering, yes, this does make it more offensive. Maybe they weren’t comfortable playing those roles, but then again, maybe this song should never have been included in the first place.
After McMaster School of the Arts’ decision to put on Lady in the Red Dress this year, a play that highlighted the racism Chinese-Canadians face specifically, it seems a glaring oversight to have consciously kept this number in the production. A brief mention of China’s long history by the main character, Man in Chair, is not only insufficient for facilitating a discussion about a topic so complex, it’s not even relevant to the stereotypes presented in the song. The number was inessential to the plot of the musical, and could’ve been replaced by literally anything else.
But as uncomfortable as the number made me, the more unsettling thing and the reason I nearly walked out of the theatre was how hilarious the audience seemed to find it all. As soon as the Asian-sounding music began, they were chuckling. By the time the emperor appeared, they were howling. I’d been laughing up until that point but in a room full of people, I had never felt more alone in my entire life. I was somewhere between wanting to cry, vomit, and start screaming at everyone either involved or just sitting there and laughing. And that’s a lot like what fighting racism as an Asian is like in Canada. No one takes you seriously and white people dismiss you and non-Asian People of Colour alike because they don’t think your struggles are valid. To you they’re still an expendable joke. From Fu Manchu and Mr. Yunioshi to Drowsy and recent remarks made at this year’s Oscars, the entertainment business has clearly demonstrated how little it cares about us, and how little progress we’ve made in the anti-racism movement for Asians.
When the list of nominees for the 2015 Cannes Film Festival came out, I was as excited for Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth as I was for Mark Osborne’s Le Petit Prince. Having closely watched both Roman Polanski’s 1971 Macbeth and the modernized 2010 British television adaptation, you’d think I’d be tired of the play by now, but Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy once again proves itself a whirlwind of a masterpiece regardless of how it’s delivered.
If I had to describe the film in one word it would be “desolate.” The film begins in the silence of a haunting funeral, and while a battle cry eventually breaks the startling quiet, the monotony is never quite shaken off. For most of the movie, lines are murmured under breaths, sound effects are scarce and background music far in between, and the end result produces scenes eerily reminiscent of the earliest days of Soviet Montage. With scenes flashing by — shots of the three witches, brief flashes of the apparitions — without a single note or word in the background, Macbeth is almost suffocating in its dark and dismal emptiness as the strange sombre mood is maintained to the very end.
Director Justin Kurzel, however, uses the monotony in the first half to his advantage. As with the battle cry shattering the silence in the film’s first act, this pattern continues in its most significant scenes. A personal favourite is the subdued music that underlines Macbeth’s soliloquy as he walks, dagger in hand, to King Duncan’s room — music that escalates to a discordant peak as the stabbing scene plays out, effectively silencing the actors and drowning out the sounds of the struggle. By the end of the scene, the music fades, the film plunges back into its unsettling silence, and Macbeth’s bloody hands and King Duncan’s dead body soundlessly dominate the screen. The dissonance of quiet and sound reappears in the second half, when the loud cries of “Hail Macbeth!” are juxtaposed with the silence in between each cry. The startling juxtaposition frames the movie in a psychological context I haven’t seen in another adaptation, with Macbeth’s rapidly loosening grasp on reality spiralling blatantly out of his control with each sudden burst of sound in what is otherwise a silent scene. This time, it is not Macbeth unleashing the sounds of fury, and instead he is the one left in a suffocating, artificial silence.
With Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy all having previously tackled the controversial role of the thane-turned-king, Michael Fassbender is the last of the X-Men Professor X and Magneto quartet to take his turn at Macbeth. Fassbender’s Macbeth is fierce and savage, more unhinged than Patrick Stewart’s war period Macbeth and devoid of Jon Finch’s complex vulnerability in the 1971 film. This Macbeth is beast-like even in the deafening silence. By the last act, however, he is despaired and half-gone, his furious soliloquies that are usually spoken in rising volume are instead delivered barely above a whisper. The end product is mystifying, as rare as it is to see a Macbeth whose madness was not depicted to equal rabid screaming, and with this, Fassbender makes the role his and his alone. Alongside him is French actress Marion Cotillard, whose own Lady Macbeth is quiet but terrifying. She plays the role with a subdued, tender weariness, and her exhausted delivery seals the fatigued atmosphere of the film.
What this version appears to lack in consistent cacophony, it nevertheless made up for with its diegetic elements. Scenes alternate between high contrast and low contrast, and the film does not hold back in the required depiction of brutality. Kurzel’s Macbeth is not hesitant with its visual design and symbolism is laid on thick. It plays with symbolic colours, from the dark blacks and browns of Macbeth’s scenes to the blood red saturation of the finale that ultimately defined the film for me. Death hangs above the narrative constantly, setting up for the intended catharsis Macbeth’s death is meant to trigger. As the film reaches its end, the music rises, and the colours become increasingly saturated, until the dark red credits start rolling on screen.
For all that the movie was remotely and desolately silent, it kept me on edge. I was always leaning in to see more and hear more, and with that in mind, I’d like to say Kurzel’s Macbeth delivered more than it disappointed. “It is a tale told by an idiot,” goes one of the most famous lines in the play, despairingly whispered in this one, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” What this adaptation of Macbeth appeared to lack in sound, it made up for in silent fury, resulting in a version that may be a walking shadow of the story, but one that definitely does not signify nothing.