Macbeth (1971), or Stange, Dark, And Bleak

29 09 2009

Let me be the first to say that Roman Polanski is not someone who I’d like to grab a beer with. He’s not exactly on anybody’s Favorite Dudes list, and I would be more than a little ashamed to be seen out and about with him. But I won’t deny his immense talent, and all the amazing things he’s done in the world of film. Today’s film is Polanski’s take of the classic Shakespearean play, a dark and menacing tale of murder, guilt, and greed. It was the first film he had directed after the murder of his wife by Charles Manson, so it is soul-crushingly bleak. But the story of Macbeth isn’t exactly sunshine and lollipops, so Polanski makes the right moves to make this a fine adaptation of what could be Shakespeare’s greatest play.

Everyone knows the story of Macbeth, I hope, the mad Thane whose oath of fealty was stained in blood. If not, you probably haven’t finished high school yet, so you should probably start hitting the books, kid. It’s a fascinating story of avarice and bitter recrimination that has captured the imagination of the Western world for centuries. Polanski’s version changes a few things from the play to keep the world as realistic as possible. Some soliloquies are changed into inner monologues for a sense of realism, some scenes are cut for maximum potency, and the ending is changed to something much bleaker than what most might imagine. It’s by no means a light viewing, but what would one expect from a man who had his wife murdered no less than a year prior?

Polanski is a consummate director, and I will be the first to come to his side when it comes to matters of art. I appreciate his skill with the camera. There are some scenes that stick out quite a bit simply because nobody else would have done them that way. The beginning battle, for instance, is so brutal but it is shot at such a distance that it keeps the audience detached which leaves me with a strange and alarming feeling. And his use of quick cutting is very instrumental in creating an atmosphere in which anything could happen. The locations chosen bring out a stark reality to the 11th century that have rarely been duplicated. This world is surreal, eerie, frightening, and full of the dark energy that pervades the play.

The principal cast is excellent. Jon Finch is a fine Macbeth. He really captures the heart of what the character is all about, from his divided heart, to his paranoia, and finally his madness. He seems quite enamored with the role, and I felt that he was perfect for this version of the story. Francesca Annis plays the sinister heart behind the man, Lady Macbeth. What a stone-cold bitch! She was great, in a way that makes me hate her. Out of all the incarnations of the character, I found Annis to be the most contemptible. She just seemed right from the start to be a woman who was out for blood. I dug her rendition, but I was fuming during her planning of the king’s murder. Martin Shaw plays Banquo, the tragic go-to man of Macbeth. His character wasn’t as fleshed-out as I would have liked, but it never really was in the play, so I can’t really blame Shaw. He performs well, only he left me wanting.

The film looks great, the actors are excellent, and the writing is fucking Shakespeare. I’m gonna leave this one short so I can go get ready for my next two weeks without Bren. But trust me when I say that you’re going to want to check this movie out. Out of all the Macbeth adaptations I’ve seen, this one’s the best. I give Roman Polanski’s Macbeth 8 1/2 mad Thanes out of 10. Check it out!

Tomorrow I’ll be watching In Bruges! Until then!

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2 responses

30 09 2009
Doug Bonner

Thanks for reminding me of this film. I hadn’t seen it since I was a teenager. Makes me want to go right out and rent it.

30 09 2009
Jenni David

cant wait till tomorrows!

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