« Barton Fink », « Fargo », « The Big Lebowski », « No Country For Old Men », « Burn After Reading »… Since 1984, Ethan and Joel Coen have co-directed twenty feature films with an elegant style and a grating, burlesque, corrosive tone. But for the first time, Joel Coen went it alone here, Ethan officially preferring to turn to the theater. The 67-year-old filmmaker tackled William Shakespeare’s monumental “Macbeth” in “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” and it’s Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington who embody the Machiavellian couple in this adaptation available on AppleTV +.

The film therefore tells the fate of this lord who, following the oracle of a trio of witches promising him that he will become the next king of Scotland, decides to kill the sovereign in office. Whitewashed by his wife’s all-consuming ambition, Macbeth then sets about eliminating anyone who gets in his way. But, assailed by hallucinations, the bloodthirsty tyrant lets himself be devoured by guilt and paranoia…

Far from the satirical tone he used in the films made with his brother, Joel Coen signs a classic adaptation, in black and white, particularly dark.

Frances McDormand, immensely Machiavellian

In this work entirely shot in the studio, there are only a few sequences with extras: the staging is minimalist, the plans graphic, uncluttered. A single shot shows Macbeth’s castle as a whole, the others place the characters in a corridor, on a bed, in the corner of a room… As if to show that they are locked up in the prison of their conscience.

In these twilight settings and these sublime images, it takes the caliber of actors like Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington to make Shakespeare’s magnificent language resonate with force and fluidity (“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow! with small steps, we slip from day to day until the last syllable of time inscribed on the book of our destiny…”).

If Denzel Washington lacks a bit of “fury”, Frances McDormand is immensely Machiavellian. And as disturbing as the prowling vultures sowing deadly greed.


“The Tragedy of Macbeth”, American drama by Joel Coen, with Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell… (1h45). Available on AppleTV+.

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