Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

This was Roman Polanski 1st film after the murder of his pregnant partner Sharon Tate by the Manson Family. It shows.vlcsnap-2009-07-08-20h04m59s251

I learnt Macbeth at school 18 or 19 years ago and rather then the groans of disappointment that Shakespeare was known to elicit from kids this one was a resounding success. It has stuck with me ever since and is one of the most outstanding plays ever written. The beauty of Shakespeare is in his language, a strange poetry that can raise the hackles and chill the blood. Certainly verses that stick in the memory are such as “By the pricking”, “When shall we three” and the one I had to learn by heart “Tomorrow”. These are brilliantly done and the action of setting Macbeth in its correct historical context is outstanding. Often films set in history suffer from “period hair” with the style of the age of production shining through, or the costumes are too clean and the sets too shiny. Macbeth suffers none of this, Macbeths castle is, for want of a better word, a shit-hole and this explains to a degree why the role of king is so tempting for him.vlcsnap-2009-07-08-20h39m01s198

Francesca Annis is outstanding as Lady Macbeth arguably the true villain of the piece, in fact Duncan the King would not have been murdered at all as Macbeth falters at the final hurdle. She pays for her crimes with brilliantly acted insanity tortured by the lives that her ambition has ended. Its her death that leads to the Tomorrow speech which is reproduced with no shame below.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

vlcsnap-2009-07-09-17h40m25s82Of course the true villains are The Witches or Wyrd Sisters who manipulate Macbeth expertly into regicide. Whether they act for their own agenda is never explored but truly it is their machinations that cause the upset so splendidly.vlcsnap-2009-07-09-18h35m29s108

What I found most odd about Macbeth were my memories of it, I watched this film at school as part of the course and on re-watching I am surprised at the amount of gore and nudity included. The film is rated 15 but I'm quite sure that I would have been younger then that at the time. I’m sure that a school would be terrified of the repercussions if it done such a thing today.

If you can see past the language with is flowery and archaic and simply touch the intent and meaning of the words Shakespeare is fully entertaining after all nobody ever really spoke like that anyway. An absolutely sterling film and well worth anyone's time.

Macbeth was re-imagined (urgh) in 2006 and set in 2005 Melbourne! I will watch that next and report back with my revulsion, I mean appreciation.

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