Macbeth Unhinged

Directed and adapted by its star Angus Macfadyen, this interminable cod-surrealist Shakespeare shake-up creeps in this petty pace from overwrought scene to mangled verse, to what very much feels like the last syllable of recorded time. Macbeth Unhinged makes Shakespeare's most concise play seem laborious, as it chops and screws his work in ways that seem deliberately obtuse.

A modern retelling, here the tragedy is set almost entirely within a cramped limousine - think Cosmopolis without the legroom. The limitations of power that this conjures is a neat idea, but the setting quickly becomes dull. All too aware of the restraints, Macfadyen employs a freewheeling disarray of ridiculous voice distortion, awkward camerawork and jagged editing - full of ham-fisted overlay imagery - giving the film the feel of a dreadfully embarrassing student experimental. It is a co-production with Virginia Commonwealth University film students, but I don't take that as a valid excuse with industry professionals at the helm.

Some of those professionals could perhaps do with a few classes themselves, as the performances here are uniformly ghastly. MacFadyen's Macbeth is all hammy face contortions and howls of anguish. Variously barking, slurring and singing his lines, MacFadyen seems to believe that just by juggling quirks in a manner markedly different to previous Macbeths, he'll hit upon some inspired reading. Taylor Roberts, as his Lady, is all vampish psycho-sexual pomp, never being allowed to settle into any semblance of humanity. As Banquo, even the ever-dependable Harry Lennix - who has nailed weirdo Shakespeare before in Julie Taymor's underrated Titus - is directed into the ground here.

Not completely without a sense of its own absurd campiness, I imagine the winking surrealism of Fellini's Satyricon might have been the aim. Boorman's Zardoz is a more apt comparison, but this is not nearly as entertaining as Zardoz. Dreadfully unfunny when it tries to be but unintentionally hilarious when it doesn't, if it ever makes it to release – which I doubt - Macbeth Unhinged may have a future as a contender for The Room of Shakespeare adaptations.


Seoul Station

Unrelenting and bleak, Seoul Station is a Korean zombie-horror anime that presents the outbreak from the perspective of the down-and-out. Struggling with life on the streets of Seoul, a young woman (Shim Eun-Kyung) has a fight with her lowlife boyfriend (Lee Joon) after he secretly tries to pimp her. He walks off, leaving her facing an outbreak of cannibalistic insanity amongst the homeless in and around the titular train station. Contacted by her father (Ryu Seung-Ryong), the boyfriend attempts to track her down as the city descends into chaos, and the government takes extreme measures.

Featuring naturalistic voice acting and brilliantly expressive realistic animation, Seoul Station is thoroughly engrossing in the moment, but with its weak characterisation and muddled satire, it offers little of substance. It's in action set pieces where the film excels. While Seoul Station isn't particularly scary, it does provide hair-raising tension. A slow-motion chase tiptoeing across girders, as the living dead throw themselves off buildings in ravenous hunger, is a particular highlight.

Although those sequences are thrilling, there's a cavalier brand of cruelty to Seoul Station that sits awkwardly with its moralising. Taking people who are suffering on the streets and the piling on more suffering, while they weep and moan - there is a lot of weeping and moaning - before having their throats ripped out, may be director Sang-ho's idea of honest social commentary but I disliked watching it happen.

At this point in the endless onslaught of zombie films, it takes something particularly unique to justify an ever-more-undesirable addition. Despite the relative novelty of an animated take, and distinctly Korean political allegory, Seoul Station doesn't distinguish itself enough to join the zombie canon.



The Model

Despite unnecessary melodramatic flourishes, this second feature from Sundance award-winning director Mads Matthiesen maintains a tight grip due to Maria Palm's riveting central performance and a convincing mix of naturalistic character study and psychological thriller.

A quiet 16-year-old Danish suburbanite, Emma (Maria Palm), travels to Paris to begin a career in fashion modelling. After some first wavering steps, she grows in confidence, starting a relationship with a much older photographer (Ed Skrein) and quickly making cover appearances. The realised dream begins to shatter, though, as Emma turns her back on her previous life and embraces the manipulation and lies of her new reality.

While The Model is not too far from the conventional portrayal of modelling as a meat grinder for hopeful but naïve young women, the conditions for Emma's inevitable corruption are unusually complex. The gradually intensifying invasions of Emma's personal space, from body measurements to faux-innocent kissing games at the dinner table, occasionally punctuated by the repeated creaking open of the bathroom door as she showers, adds creeping tension to this well-paced film.

With increasing anxiety created by Emma's determination to accept - or even indulge - these infractions, The Model makes for a deft exploration of how objectification and its acceptance can erode a sense of self. The film stumbles into a somewhat predictable downward spiral, but maintains believability due to Maria Palm's fantastic debut performance, which never falters.