The richness of Shakespeare's plays, and the vagueness of their settings, lends them to many adaptations and interpretations. This version of Macbeth, the "Scottish play", doesn't feel particularly Scottish, more Orwellian, and Patrick Stewart plays the central character less as an opportunistic chancer out of his depth, and more as a deranged psychopathic tyrant: if the film resembles any other, it's 'Downfall', the story of the last days of Hitler. As always when watching Shakespeare, one is stunned by the sheer number of brilliant phrasings that have entered general usage from his works. But Macbeth is an odd play dramatically: the main action occurs offstage, the leavening self-referential humour present in 'Hamlet' is here lacking, and there are few appealing characters. In Kenneth Brannagh's version of 'Hamlet', for example, I really enjoyed Derek Jacobi's ambiguous Claudius; but in this story, there is little other than war and death. As a film, it also falls between two stools, as it is shot neither naturalistically, nor with the brilliant invention of Baz Luhrmann's 'Romeo + Juliet'; rather, it feels like a stage play jazzed up with the occasional camera trick. So I'm not sure this is the best of Shakespeare's tragedies, nor that this is my favourite production; but it's certainly intense. Indeed, if this was once popular entertainment, one can only regret the undemanding nature of modern tastes.
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