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By Phil Hall | December 30, 2008

British filmmaker Alexander Abela certainly deserves credit for originality: his 1999 film version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” was reconfigured to take place in a Madagascar village. Unfortunately, all that “Makibefo” has going for it is a clever idea.

An on-screen narrator reading from an oversized book turns up throughout the film and speaks directly to the camera with updates on what is taking place, which is helpful since no one on camera seems to have the slightest clue how to act. The ensemble’s inept handling of dialogue make explain why there are so many long stretches of silence, but their stoic screen presence doesn’t offer any clue of the internal turmoil that the characters are supposedly experiencing.

Abela shot “Makibefo” in a gritty black-and-white that adds to the general dreariness of the proceedings – the production is monochromatic, both in style and substance. Admittedly, there are a few twists here that go above mere cleverness – the Three Witches become a single male witch doctor who turns into a snake, one of Macbeth/Makibefo’s murders is intercut with the slaughter of a water buffalo (which doesn’t appear to have been faked for the cameras), and the ghosts of the despot’s victims appear with white paint across their faces.

But by the end of the film’s mercifully brief but painfully dull 73 minutes, one comes away feeling confused and irritated rather than transfixed.

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