The Tragedy of Macbeth

In his first film without his brother Ethan, Joel Coen ventures to adapt Shakespeare's Macbeth, with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as Lord and Lady Macbeth. Nominated for three Oscars.

Time & Tickets

Watch the film screenings of The Tragedy of Macbeth during Oscarnaval on Sunday 27, Monday 28 February and Tuesday 1 March.

The news took the film industry by surprise: the directing duo Joel and Ethan Coen (responsible for modern classics such as FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and BARTON FINK) are no longer a duo. Ethan Coen turns his back on the film industry and will concentrate on writing plays; his brother Joel continues solo as a director and immediately ventures into the iconic MACBETH, which was previously adapted for the big screen by Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa and Roman Polanski. At first glance, the Coen-Shakespeare combination may not be an obvious one, but according to Coen, MACBETH points ahead to American film noir: it is essentially about a couple plotting a murder.

The story is familiar: General Macbeth is told by three witches that he will one day be king of Scotland and then hatches a violent plan with his wife to make that prediction come true.

Coen’s version of the Shakespeare classic is both sober and overwhelming. And in breath-taking black and white, a very conscious choice, because according to Coen, colour would compete with the text. With its almost square image format, the film refers back to expressionist classics from the silent film era. Also striking: Scotland remains entirely out of the picture. THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was shot in the studio. According to Coen, Shakespeare is often spoiled ‘by all those rooms and castles’. Despite Coen’s stylistic interventions, the core of Shakespeare's masterpiece remains intact: a timeless study of power, ambition and corruption.

Joel Coen, USA, 2021, 105 min. English spoken, Dutch subtitles. With Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Bertie Carvel, Brendan Gleeson.