Tragedy begets tragedy
Polanski’s classic 1971 adaptation of The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of the controversial filmmaker’s early gems, and one of the best interpretations of Shakespeare’s classic play.Steeped in graphic violence and nudity, it’s hard not to draw connections to the elements that brought about this entry in Polanski’s early career: it was the first film that he made after the murder of his pregnant wife as part of the Manson massacre and it involved the graphic depiction of the murder of a wife and children; and it was funded by Hugh ‘Playboy’ Hefner (Polanski needed funding), and involved a sleepwalking scene which was, arguably, unnecessarily played in the nude.However the skilled filmmaker’s interpretation of the classic play rises above any connotations and remains a stylish, expertly shot feature, staying largely faithful to the original prose but also framing the dark tragedy with an arguably even darker, more conspiratorial slant that, in some ways, elevates the scope of the original to become less a standalone nightmarish fairytale and more a Caesarean reflection on repeated cycles of violence.
Although the largely British cast are not universally exceptional, with an air of woodenness to even the more familiar names whose talents hadn’t yet quite been fully honed, they do a good ensemble job, with Jon Finch taking the reins as Macbeth in the first of a number of Shakespeare adaptations that he would participate in; Martin Shaw making for a suitably sceptical Banquo; and a young and striking Francesca Annis as the scheming Lady Macbeth.
Polanski’s 45 year-old vision remains one of the best classic interpretations.
Polanski wields them well, and indeed orchestrates one of his grandest productions, shooting some exceptionally striking sequences (reflected sunsets; the perfectly-framed castle on the hill; and some curiously effective effects-accentuated shots) and managing the herds of people well, whether in the banquets or the on the battlefield. Although Michael Fassbender’s recent Macbeth oozes style and moody atmosphere – and Kurosawa’s innovative samurai-variation, Throne of Blood, is the most critically acclaimed – Polanski’s 45 year-old vision arguably remains one of the best classic interpretations.
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