Dark, brooding production led by great performances from Stewart and Fleetwood
On the day of his victory on the battlefield, Macbeth is told of his future by three sinister harpies first as Thane, but then also as King. Sharing these visions with his wife, the two commence immediately to work towards this fate with villainous murder and deception as the tools they choose to employ.
I have seen a few versions of this play now and while this one is not my favorite, it is one with plenty to love. Since the series that holds this film is called 'Great Performances', it does seem natural to start with that element of it and of course the performances are, as the title states, great. Stewart of course is the draw, and he plays his Macbeth really well; he keeps him believable and understandable whether he is being guided by his wife past his doubts and morals, and also when he is soaked in blood and mad with guilt. He would not be as good though were he not matched by a brilliant Lady Macbeth from Kate Fleetwood; she is by far the best I have seen this character played and she is utterly convincing in her manipulation and also in her madness. The support cast features a few faces and names you will know, but even if you do not, all of them are on-message with the tone of the production, and their performances are strong.
The tone of the production is very much set by the design of the piece. Shot entirely in Welbeck Abbey, the film does feel a little limited in some ways by the lack of variety in the location, but hard to complain as it brings so much more. Darkness, cold stone, a sense of war, and a genuine sense of creepy dread, all come across here really well. The lighting and framing of shots is equally great and while it is a very dark film visually, it is also one that has a lot of effective style to it. It does seem to run slower than it needed to at times, but it is a strong production, with two really great performances in the leads.
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