Monday, April 21, 2014

MacBeth: Marion Cotillard gives the Scottish play a French twist


It's a long way off but the latest cinematic attempt at MacBeth due out in 2015 has Lady MacBeth speaking, not with a Scottish accent like the rest of the cast, but with a French brogue. The Justin Kurzel directed film stars Michael Fassbender as MacBeth with Marion Cotillard as Lady MacBeth, Lady M. as Fassbender came to call her. 

Here's what Cotillard said to friend and colleague, directorJohn Cameron Mitchell in Interview magazine. Mitchell, best known for his film Hedwig and for being killed off as Hannah's editor in Girlsasked Cotillard if she had 'a special coach for the language of Shakespeare.'
COTILLARD: Oh, yeah. And, it is really tough. It's tough already for someone who speaks English. But we really tried to stick to the original text, which is inspiring because he wrote the words, but also because there is a rhythm and an energy that fits with the emotion and the purpose of what he says. But, of course, I couldn't do it by myself. I need someone to work with; they want to keep a flavor of my French accent, because when they offered me the part, I told [director Justin Kurzel] ... Well, he knew— 
MITCHELL: You're not going to be Scottish- 
COTILLARD: [laughs] Yes. [Kurzel] thought it was interesting to have, like, an exotic flavor to the accent. So I asked, "Do you really think it's interesting? Or do you think I will never be able to totally erase my French accent and be totally Scottish?" [Mitchell laughs] And he said, "No, no, no, we really think it's interesting." I don't know if it was true, but I'm doing it, so...
MITCHELL: Well, you know they talk about the Vieille Alliance, the old alliance between the Scottish and the French. 
COTILLARD: At that time, the accents and the way of speaking were totally different. 
MITCHELL: Very different for everybody, yeah. 
COTILLARD: So it's not like it doesn't make sense that I would have a weird accent. If it were set today, and we knew about my family line and everything, it would not be believable, but back then, without all the information about where she comes from, we're going to make it work. Oh, I have to.  
MITCHELL: You're going to be great in that role; it's such a powerful role. I always want to play the female roles in Shakespeare. And in Beckett. I'm of Scottish descent, but I want to play Lady Macbeth, not Macbeth. 
COTILLARD: You could totally play Lady Macbeth.  
MITCHELL: Someday. 
Was Cotillard the right choice? Don't get me wrong; I love me some Marion Cotillard. She's a fantastic actor and who wouldn't want to look like her. Who could blame Owen Wilson for having his head turned by the sultry star as Adriana in Midnight in Paris?  But I'm not sure I'm ready for Lady MacBeth with a French accent; are you?

Costar Michael Fassbender explained to the Daily Mail (who released these first two images from the film) ‘We felt it would be unreasonable for her to put on a Scottish accent. It would not be unreasonable to presume that her character spent time in the French court.’

Hmmm. "Unreasonable" to ask her to put on a Scottish accent. How so? Fassbender who is not Scottish is putting on the accent, Elizabeth Debecki who plays Lady MacDuff is Australian, not Scottish, and also putting on the accent. But we're used to actors from both the British isles and the land down under turning in performances in a wide variety of accents. Is it harder for the French? Is it possible for Cotillard to lose her accent as she loses herself in the role, or as Fassbender suggests, would it be unrealistic to expect it. Are there any vocal coach types who know the challenges involved with losing a French accent?



Of course, I'll want to see it, Fassbender is such an intense and watchable actor, I don't want to miss a thing. Adding to the intensity of Shakespeare's MacBeth, Fassbender and the director have mixed in the element of PTSD. 

‘He’s suffering from post traumatic stress disorder,’ Fassbender told Baz Bamigoye at the Daily Mail. ‘It makes total sense, when you think about it. Justin set the seed of the idea in my head.  
‘This trauma is something we know about. In World War I they called it battle fatigue, and it was probably more horrific in Macbeth’s days, when they were killing with their bare hands, and driving a blade through bodies. 'He’s having these hallucinations, and he needs to return to the violence to find some sort of clarity, or peace.’
Plus the pair had lost a child. Ask Game of Throne siblings Jamie and Cersei Lannister just what crazy stuff people will do when they've lost a child. 

He’d been away fighting and when he returns, we see it’s a relationship that’s broken down. They lost a child, and there wasn’t time for them to grieve because he’s been away campaigning.’
‘Lady M is desperate for that reconnection, and briefly they do. And, of course, the doorway has been opened to darkness and to violence.’  
After Duncan is murdered, Lady M hopes that this ‘fantastical deed, this terrible deed, this extraordinary deed of killing a king will be something that will bond them together’. 
That spilled blood leads to more and more killings.
‘He’s wary of doing it,’ Fassbender said, ‘but Lady M bolsters him, and tells him to garner his strength.’
She'll be bolstering him with a Gallic bent; I'm trying to picture Cotillard crying "Out, out Damn spot."  This trailer for Blood Ties with Clive Owen and Billy Crudup ought to shed some light on that husky French accented voice; give it a listen and see what you think of how Cotillard sounds as the character Monica. I'm not sure what that's supposed to be!



If you happen to be all hot and bothered because Cotillard is French and vive la France and all that stuff,  you might just love my friend Paulita's weekly French appreciation meme Dreaming of France.


2 comments:

  1. You raise a lot of good questions about the whole French accent thing. But, the Australian, the Brits, the Americans all do various accents in their native languages. Imagine learning French then having to do a Spanish accent in French. Yikes. It makes my brain hurt. I'll still look forward to the movie. Thanks for playing along today. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good point; I wasn't thinking about all the translation that goes into it as well.
      I hadn't thought about it that way, thanks.

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