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The Tragedy Of Macbeth Trailer Pulls Back The Curtain On A Shakespearean Masterpiece

The subgenre of William Shakespeare adaptations has been an integral part of cinema for about as long as the medium has existed. In fact, as early as 1899, motion picture pioneer William Kennedy Dickson was already adapting "The Life and Death of King John" into a four-minute short (via BFI Screen Online). In the years since then, cinematic masters like Lois Weber, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Derek Jarman have all found inspiration in the Bard's work. Now, it's Joel Coen's turn at-bat.

The revered American filmmaker, working without his brother and usual directing partner Ethan, has made a lofty, star-studded adaptation of "Macbeth," one of Shakespeare's grisliest, darkest, and most iconic tragedies. After making its small fall film festival run and debuting in theaters with a limited, Oscar-qualifying release in December 2020, the film is about to hit Apple TV+ as, arguably, the streaming service's most prestigious exclusive title to date. 

That means fans of both Shakespeare and Coen will soon get to bask in the grandeur of "The Tragedy of Macbeth," an experience that has previously been reserved for just a small number of lucky moviegoers. As if that wasn't enough, the film's new trailer suggests that "The Tragedy of Macbeth" may be the most stylish, intense, and visually astonishing Joel Coen production yet.

Apple TV+ subscribers won't want to miss The Tragedy of Macbeth

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes," says the witch (Kathryn Hunter) at the beginning of the latest trailer for "The Tragedy of Macbeth." The phrase's instantly recognizable quality is a testament to how popular the "Scottish Play" remains in popular culture. Indeed, few tales from the past 400 years have made more of a lasting impact than Shakespeare's account of a Scottish lord who, encouraged by a dubious prophecy, decides to murder his way to the front of the royal line of succession.

For his part, Joel Coen, who is no stranger himself to morbid tales of power and senseless violence, appears to have zeroed in on the play's relentless, near-apocalyptic emotional intensity — and taken the opportunity to up his game as a visual storyteller at the same time. Drawing from German Expressionism and the film noir genre, he has made "The Tragedy of Macbeth" a purely Gothic spectacle.

The footage featured just in the minute-and-a-half-long trailer contains some of the most dazzling black-and-white cinematography in decades. Combine that with composer Carter Burwell's blood-curdling music and two towering presences from Denzel Washington as the film's spiraling protagonist and Frances McDormand as the merciless Lady Macbeth, and the trailer's message is clear: Viewers should get ready for a film that may very well match the enormity and power of its source material.

"The Tragedy of Macbeth" hits Apple TV+ on January 14 — just in time for everyone to see it before it likely gets a whole lot of Oscar nominations.