Murder, prophecy, and witches! MACBETH returns, starring Academy AwardŽ-nominee Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Academy AwardŽ-winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), on DVD for the first time anywhere. F... more »irst broadcast on Britain's Thame« less
Incredible production with McKellan and Dench at their peak.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production highlights the Christian v. pagan elements, and in other ways deals in opposites (men's v. women's perceptions, solid v. spirit worlds, etc.), but without beating you over the head with it. The witch scenes are amazing--the production borrows from Irish "bog people" imagery with the witches' stick puppets representing Macbeth's visions, with a little borrowing from Carlos Castaneda's peyote trips, and maybe the minimal "circle" staging of Equus. Minimal props and furniture; the actors carry it all the way, brilliantly. I can't imagine anyone doing a better, visceral, more committed job with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth than McKellan and Dench. It could sell huge--for a Shakespeare film--if only it wasn't probably too obviously a taped stage production (it doesn't try to be otherwise). A couple of turtlenecks among the costumes betray the 70's-era staging, but otherwise the costuming is great and doesn't date the production. If you a) are a fan of Ian McKellan and/or Judi Dench and b) appreciate great Shakespeare performances and want to be "in the know" on what's considered the definitive Macbeth staging of the past couple decades, this is the one."
McKellen and Dench are outstanding...
Sandra Robertson | Huntsville, Alabama USA | 12/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this tape after it was featured in an interview with Ian McKellen on Inside the Actor?s Studio and I decided I had to have it for my collection. This is a very simply staged version of Shakespeare's most violent play, and against this basic black canvas you witness two of the greatest stage actors of all time. The queen knighted both McKellen and Dench after this production, and rightfully so. They are both national treasures, as they should be.This film is worth watching for these two outstanding performances alone, and for the beauty of the language, unencumbered by complex technical effects. Trevor Nunn has chosen to highlight the emotional deterioration of MacBeth and his Lady for this production, and I wonder if that choice was made because he had these two incredible actors for this production, or if he chose them for this purpose (a variation on the chicken/egg theory of theatrical production). The "apparitions" (Banquo, dagger, et al) occur in MacBeth's head only -- McKellen's amazing ability convinces you that he sees bloody, murdered Banquo seated at the table, although we do not see him. (Believe me, this is infinitely preferable to some other Banquo apparitions I've witnessed in other productions.) Dench is, quite simply, the best actor alive to ever trod down the even road of the Bard?s blank verse. Period. Her Lady MacBeth?s degeneration is set in motion from the first letter-reading scene, climaxing in the most jaw-dropping sleepwalking scene ever.Shakespeare has never SOUNDED better?much of this recording would work equally well as an audio-only version. Other reviewers have done a remarkable job in explaining what works about this notable production; allow me to share what bothered me about it:The camera work: looked and felt like an old episode of Dark Shadows with much-too-tight camera angles. I wish that, C-Span-like, the TV director had simply trained a camera on the stage and then we could watch how Nunn utilized the small space of this theatre. So many tight shots of the actors? faces deprive us of seeing what they are doing with the rest of themselves, and how the others in the scene are reacting.Bob Peck as MacDuff: autistic, rather than artistic. I know the British are famous for their reserve (but the Scots certainly aren?t), and sometimes less is more onstage when it comes to emotion, but Peck?s greets the news that his wife and children have all been murdered with the same amount of indignation that he might incur at the news that someone drank the last beer in his fridge. It?s a choice that doesn?t seem to work, and this goes against Shakespeare?s own text: (?But I must also feel it as a man?), which makes MacDuff one of the first completely emotional strong, sensitive males on the stage. Even when he murders MacBeth, Peck comes across as only slightly peeved. Accents: Nunn has chosen to have some of the ?character? parts (the Sergeant, the Porter) performed with heavy Scottish brogues?and they are difficult to understand for the average listener. (I?m quite used to these accents and I had a hard time with some of it.) I like the authenticity, but sometimes one should sacrifice authenticity for coherence.If you like Shakespeare, good acting, or need to learn this play for school, buy this version. It comes closer than most others toward depicting what the main characters are all about, and the language is beautiful and terrifying. If you are studying acting, McKellen and Dench?s performances will probably convince you that you have no talent whatsoever."
Shakespeare cannot be done better on screen
The Baker Street Irregular | Staines | 01/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shakespeare's plays, I find, often tend not to come off too well on screen. The essence of these works is the language: it is Shakespeare's blank verse that contains the drama. But all too often, this gets lost on the screen. However, this much acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production, directed by Trevor Nunn, gets it absolutely right. The sets are minimal; the lighting is imaginative, but dark; the camera movements and editing are unobtrusive: nothing distracts from the verse, which - needless to say, given this cast - is beautifully spoken. The costumes are taken from different periods in history, and so do not tie the action down to any particular time; but there is a unity both in design and in purpose.The atmosphere is intense and claustrophobic from the very beginning. Judi Dench presents a Lady Macbeth who, right from the start, is terrified of the spirits she calls upon to possess her. Ian MacKellen presents us with a figure on the verge of insanity, and possibly beyond: this Macbeth has to convince himself that "all is but toys", for otherwise, he could not go on living with the burden of such guilt. It is terrifying to see these figures descend further into the depths of evil and madness. Somehow, all horror films seem a bit tame after this: the evil does not come from the monster outside, but from the monster within ourselves.In brief, this is not prettified Shakespeare. If you are looking for spectacle and opulence, it would be best to look elsewhere. But if you are looking for an intelligent reading of one of the great undisputed masterpieces of drama, then you need look no further."
wahzoh | North Hollywood, CA USA | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production is decades old, but will continue to be a classic. The settings are spare, the costumes are minimalist and stark. The acting is truly scarey. Ian McKellan tends to be a bit twitchy for my taste as an actor, but here the twitchiness works very well. Spitting, fuming, puking even at one point, he wrestles with a terrible evil he has hatched inside himself. I imagine it would have been hard to sit through in the theatre with no intermission.
Judi Dench - a goddess to me - is alternately terrifying and heartbreaking as Lady MacBeth. Her sleepwalking scene has a desperate, lost quality to it, and the scene climaxes in a bottomless cry from her heavy heart which gives me goosebumps just to think of it.
A young Roger Rees (just off his stint as Nicholas Nickleby - does anyone here but me remember that one, or am I dating myself?) plays Malcolm, perhaps bringing some inadvertent comedy to the production. Malcolm's scene where he comdemns himself for his lust and then admits that he's a virgin. To me, it's a hoot, but maybe I was just letting off tension steam from the rest of the play.
The witches are creepy, too. Now I know why they call them "weird" sisters. Really weird, with even more drool and twitching.
All in all, I think this is the best MacBeth that you'll find on tape. It's just a matter of whether or not you can sit through it without jumping out of your skin. Highly recommended. A classic.
Macbeth as Shakespeare would have seen it
Ivan Hrvatska | New York | 12/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you require elaborate scenery, costumes, or special affects to appreciate Shakespeare, then this production is not for you. If all that you require is outstanding acting to bring Shakespeare to life, then you'll likely enjoy this production. The performances of Ian McKellen and Judi Dench are outstanding. Judi Dench's depiction of Lady Macbeth's descent into madness is riveting.
Acting aside, the great thing about this production, is that it presents Macbeth in much the same way as it would have been seen by William Shakespeare. Some comment on the stripped down nature of this production, without appreciating that in the original productions there was virtually no set and little in the way of costumes. Oh, and no women. Far from being an esoteric adaptation of Macbeth, this version is much closer to what theatre goers would have witnessed in Elizabethan times."