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In fog-dripping, barren and sometimes macabre settings, 11th-century Scottish nobleman Macbeth is led by an evil prophecy and his ruthless yet desirable wife to the treasonous act that makes him king. But he does not enjoy his newfound, dearly-won kingship... Restructured, but all the dialogue is Shakespeare's. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Welles has created a unique interpretation of Macbeth with this film. It is very dark - literally so since almost the entire film takes place at night and the fog machines were cranked up pretty high for a lot of the scenes. Perhaps this darkness befits the mood of the story, but I began to feel oppressed by it. All the running about in ill-lighted cavernous hallways produced a claustrophobic effect.
Welles emphasizes Macbeth's ambivalence in acting on his ambitions and his anguish in having done so. The influence of Lady Macbeth is particularly accentuated; in the scene where Macbeth is wavering about killing the King, Lady Macbeth effectively challenges his manhood over any thoughts of failure to do the job. Wells is effective in delivering the voiced-over soliloquies and in developing Macbeth as a tortured brooder. Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth is less successful than Welles
her "Out damned spot" scene was way over the top. It was fun to see a
twenty-year-old Roddy McDowall playing Malcomb.
While there are some cinematic elements, like the escape of Fleance on horseback and the approach of Macduff and the English armies at the end, this is essentially the filming of a play. There are some interesting sets and lighting details, but there are also some cheesy sets and effects. The costumes look like they came out of some Viking movie and Macbeth's crown has all the appearance of having been fashioned for a junior high school play.
The musical score (by Jacques Ibert no less) is generic and frequently overbearing.
Going into this cold without having read the play or seen another production could be tough sledding.
Kurosawa took a lot from this Macbeth for his 1957 interpretation in "Throne of Blood." His Birnam wood scenes are almost identical to Welles'. For a more complete and accessible Macbeth, see Polanski's 1971 film. It would be interesting to see what Welles would have come up with if he had been turned loose on this with a big budget and no time constraints.
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