Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, will make its world premiere as the opening night film of the 2021 New York Film Festival.
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” will kick off NYFF 59 with a screening at Alice Tully Hall on Sept. 24. The festival itself runs from Sept. 24 through Oct. 10.
Coen’s film is a new visualization of the Scottish play, all shot in a stark chiaroscuro, that stars Washington as Macbeth and McDormand as Lady Macbeth. NYFF describes it as an “anguished film that stares, mouth agape, at a sorrowful world undone by blind, greed and thoughtless ambition” and features “meticulously world-weary performances” by the two leads.
The film is also shot in an aspect ratio that echoes some of Laurence Olivier’s classic Shakespeare adaptations from the ’40s, as well as Akira Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood,” which itself is a “Macbeth” adaptation. But the festival adds that “Coen’s tale of sound and fury is entirely his own — and undoubtedly one for our moment, a frightening depiction of amoral political power-grabbing that, like its hero, ruthlessly barrels ahead into the inferno.”
Apple and A24 are releasing the film later this year. It also stars Brendan Gleeson, Harry Melling, Corey Hawkins and Ralph Ineson.
“The New York Film Festival is a place where I’ve been watching movies as an audience member and showing them as a filmmaker for almost 50 years,” Coen said in a statement. “It’s a real privilege and a thrill to be opening the Festival this year.”
“We can’t wait to welcome New York Film Festival audiences back to Lincoln Center this fall, and what a way to do that!” Eugene Hernandez, director of NYFF, said in a statement. “Last year was a deeply meaningful edition of NYFF; our Festival traveled to Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and around the country via our Virtual Cinema. This year we’re back in our Upper West Side home, but you’ll also find us exploring new venues and ways to connect with moviegoers in person, outdoors, and online—stay tuned!”
“We’re proud to open the festival with a film that immediately joins the ranks of the great screen Shakespeares,” Dennis Lim, director of programming for NYFF, said. “Working with brilliant collaborators, including Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in stunning form, Joel Coen has made an inspired and urgent interpretation of an eternally relevant classic, a moral thriller that speaks directly to our time.”
The NYFF Main Slate selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, also includes Eugene Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins and Rachel Rosen.
This year’s NYFF will be a hybrid of in-person, outdoor and virtual screenings. Early bird tickets are on sale now through July 30, and tickets will go on sale to the general public on Sept. 7.