MON CINEMA: The Tragedy of MacBeth (1971)


MON CINEMA: The Tragedy of MacBeth (1971)
by Darius Kadivar

One of the Greatest Film Adaptations of Shakespeare also happens to be one of Roman Polanski's greatest cinematic achievements. The film was shot shortly after Polanski's personal tragedy that of the assassination of his beautiful and talented wife Sharon Tate by the Manson Clan. I should say that Polanski in my opinion is an overestimated director and I have been regularly dissapointed by his latest films despite the fact that he even got highly critical reviews and honors. I personally Hated his movie The Pianist (for which he got the Palme D'Or and 3 Oscars) not much for the theme ( The Revolt of the Jewish Ghetto in Poland in the last days of WWII ) he was trying to accurately illustrate but because of Adrien Brody's terrible performance. I just could not find any sympathy for his character despite the fact of what he was going through or his obsession with not being able to play the piano. I just don't think it is enough for an actor to lose weight and pretend he is in a Concentration Camp to make you feel you are living the same experience. It just looked fake to me as if Brody knew he was being scrutinized by the Camera. Ok maybe I am too harsh but I can say that I was much more terrified by the story of Ann Frank in a recent TV film I saw in which you hardly see any violence but you clearly feel the tragedy that will soon unfold and which alas was the common fate of 6 million men, women and children and was to be revield in all its tragedy to the World as the: Holocaust  ...

His other film based on Dickens Oliver Twist was equally dissapointing.

But lets gat back to MacBeth. I think it is probably one of the greatest films Polanski ever made and certainly one of the best screen Adaptations of Shakespeare and particularly MacBeth that even outshines Orson Welles version. I think that Polanski gives great attention to both detail like the costumes and sets as well as the actors performance and manages to grasp the scenery of Old Scotland and the medieval Pagan fears and savagery of the times and the use of colour is particularly adequate to this story that digs deep into the darkest aspects of Human nature. He deals with the theme of Ambition but also the sense of guilt ( when that ambition is not for the good of others but one's self ) and how that sense can turn a bold man into a corrupted tyrant. The Cowardice is not physical for MacBeth is a Brave man but more psychological. His weakeness comes from indecisiveness and lack of self confidence and I think that the true lesson in this play is that those we think are traitors or cowards are not necessarily who we think they are. At least that is my interpretation all the more that the Historical MacBeth was actually the King Duncan who gets killed. Shakepeare like in many of his plays would twist Historical reality to fit it to the reality of his times. In anycase Polanski was certainly Very Inspired with this excellent film.

I got to see this version as a teenager thanks to my English Teacher Mrs. Joy Farr who truly gave me and my classmates at the time a taste for Shakepeare and Literature in general and we got to see this film as an assignment for a study of Shakespeare's MacBeth. I hope you get to see this film for yourselves since it is available on DVD and certainly released in your local film club now and then, or you should suggest it to them to do so.

Hope you enjoy some of it here.


Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow 

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.

Documentary on Behind the Scenes of The Tragedy of MacBeth

The Witches

Tomorrow Scene


On Sharon Tate at the height of her popularity:



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