"Purists beware, Roman Polanski and Kenneth Tynan have cut, rearranged, and shaped Shakespeare's material to make a MOVIE! And what a grand film they created. Flowingly cinematic, with stunning location filming and superb cinematography the many cuts allow for a smooth narration without sacrificing the gut and heart of the play.There was much controversy when this film debuted, probably due to it being financed and produced by Hugh Hefner and Playboy, and probably because it was unblinkingly bloody upfront (although the blood is in the play, much of it is naturally offstage), and because of nudity in several key scenes (including the witches....all those old nude crones, while factually correct, no doubt upset many). Today, these seem like perfectly reasonable choices. The film is relentless and remorseless, as befits the story. I don't know what part of Polanski's personal tragedy had any part in his work here, but the direction is excellent. Finch and Anis are fine as the murderous Laird and his Lady, as is the rest of the cast.If you want the play, see the play. If you want a stimulating and fully realized CINEMATIC treatment of Shakespeare's great themes of greed, ambition, murder, guilt and destiny, see this finely produced, directed, and acted work. Well worthwhile."
Not your grandfather's Shakespeare.
J. T. Nite | Mesa, AZ USA | 09/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is violent and brutal, sparing the audience none of the blood that's implied in the play and adding some gratuitous nudity to boot. If you read the play in high school English class, you're in for a shock or seven with this version.But I think that this is how Shakespeare would have made a movie. He certainly didn't direct his plays the way they're performed today, all mannered diction and high art. He put in plenty of dirty jokes for the groundlings, lots of sensationalist death and destruction. Shakespeare's plays were intended to sell as many tickets as possible; if Lady Macbeth wasn't played by a man back then, he probably would have wanted her sleepwalking nude as she does in this film.Polanski has done an excellent job of rescuing "Macbeth" from the constrictions of "literature" and making it shake its moneymaker, as it were. If you can handle some gore and nudity, You're in for a heck of a ride."
Martin Brody likes it dark and violent
Archmaker | 03/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Please ignore the poorly thought out review on this page. Anyone with either a passing interest in Shakespeare or an appreciation of film should seek this out now. Polanski, avoiding the trap so many other filmmakers fall into, makes a film based on Macbeth, not merely recording a performance of the play. He has crafted a breathlessly paced film, making very reasonable cuts in the text in order to bring the film in under 2½ hours. I have seen much longer versions that had no grasp of the play at all.Polanski also wisely chose not to use well-known stars for the major roles; instead utilizing some of the best (and youngest) British stage actors of the time. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis perfectly capture the most emotionally wrenched marriage ever, without the moustache twirling that finds its way into Shakespeare film adaptations too often. This film is dark, muddy, and violent; it is not intended for children. I have to assume that the people who complain about the violence in the film have never actually read the play. And I hope, for the sake of their own sanity, they steer clear of Titus Andronicus, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Othello, and if beheadings put a bee in your bonnet, beware Cymbeline! ... This is a raw, passionate telling of one of the great fictional works in the English language, by one of the great filmmakers of our time. But wait for the wide-screen DVD."
"Wow! The liberties Polanski has taken with the Bard's classic have really floored me. This is truly a revelation. Our English teacher showed us this after we had completed our studies on the play, and I wasn't expecting a film half as good as this one. The movie has made waves for it's gore, violence, bleakness ( hey, it's a tragedy!), and Lady Macbeth's nude sleepwalking scene, but it's all done by a man who is totally in tune with what Shakespeare was trying to get accross. Although some scenes/lines have been dropped from this adaptation (such as Lady Macbeth telling Macbeth she would bash her baby's brains out if she had given her word to do so, or the rather humorous relay between Macduff and Malcom), and some things have been slightly altered (such as when Macbeth laments that his wife should bring forth men-children only, is now an Aside), but it all fits together so well that it is barely noticable (although I did slightly miss them). Every scene from the play has been brought to beautiful life. Moments like the exchange between Banquo and Macbeth, while Lady Macbeth is drugging Duncan's gaurds, are highly inventive and imaginative. As well, I have never been so entertained by the porter in any adaptation of Macbeth before! I could go on and on, yet I am limited to only 1000 words in this review, which is not enough by any stretch of the imagination to review this fine film. Do yourself a favour and see this movie, those of you who know Macbeth will fall in love with this vivid re-telling of Shakespeares tragedy, and make new fans out of the un-initiated. Oh, I almost forgot, the last scene is one of the most unexpected and suprizing endings I have ever seen, and further solidifies Polanski's brilliance here. Truly one for the ages. A classic."
The Bard's Film Noir
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 10/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
Shakespeare's tragic play of "Macbeth" (written circa 1606) is set in an atmosphere that's visually dark. There is only one brief moment of sunlight, just after King Duncan's murder by Macbeth. The rest of the play takes place in shadows, in rain, in storms, or in the middle of the night. Because the play is so short (it is, in fact, Shakespeare's shortest tragic play), it resembles a nightmare that's filled with witches, prophesies, ghosts, the fantastical, bloody murder, suicide, paranoia, and dread.
Director Roman Polanski's "Macbeth" (2 hours, 20 minutes) captures all this on film, especially the bleak atmosphere. But there is even more since Polanski makes shrewd decisions when rearranging, eliminating, and embellishing scenes from the original play but he retains Shakespeare's beautiful language as originally written.
We are shown Duncan's bloody murder by Macbeth (Jon Finch) and how he tries to cover up his crime by hacking up Duncan's guards. His ordered killing of Banquo is also shown. Thus we absolutely believe Macbeth when he utters, "I am in blood / Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
Finch and Francesca Annis (who plays Lady Macbeth) make an attractive couple who are not too old to be ambitious. Lady Macbeth's beauty convinces us that she could seduce a man to kill a king, and from one scene to the next, Finch's face hardens, tracing his transformation from hero to hell-hound whereas Annis' face softens from shrewd schemer to suicidal sleepwalker.
The short Porter Scene just after Duncan's murder is fun to watch. It effectively provides some comic relief. And the final sword scene between Macbeth and Macduff is thrilling and exciting. You can see Macbeth's determination to win this duel (even though he has lost everything else) when he shouts, "Lay on Macduff / And damn'd be him that cries 'Hold, enough!'"
Even though this is a dark play, the scenery and sets are visually stunning. (The filming was at Shepperton Studios in London, England.) As well, the strong, Scottish music that occasionally plays in the background reminds us that we are watching a Scottish play.
Polanski adds little touches throughout the play to make it easier to understand and to heighten dramatic effect. My favorite is his chilling non-Shakespearean touch at the end. Just after Macbeth is killed and the tyranny of his reign is finally over, the scene shifts to Duncan's second son as he "accidentally" encounters the three weird sisters or witches.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
This movie is a worthy addition to the Bard's cinematic canon.