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It is true what Patrick Stewart says, in the 'extras' on this film: in
the last 20 years or so we have discovered that Shakespeare was a
Screenwrite. Every line of verse in this production makes sense, is
clearly revealed in its meaning by the use of images, and when the
monologues are delivered to the camera, you get it, you follow, you
never drift off from the usual 'yadda yadda' quality that the longer
speeches, even beautifully pronounced by European players, can induce
in all but scholars. The nuance that Goold gets from his actors on
meaning and tone is terrific to watch. It is a scary environment; it is
a humans-sized environment. Real human ambition & regret & resolve are
actively demonstrated--no grand pronouncements. You see how perfect the
play is, how dead on. That Lady Macbeth would instantly sicken when
Macbeth the King becomes the real 'man' she derides him for NOT being
in the first 1/5--is utterly believable.
That Macbeth would HAVE to become a testosterone ridden, bloodthirsty tyrant is clear: his only way out, as he tries to live without sleep, without 'troops of friends', without progeny.
I really enjoyed watching Patrick Stewart's maturity as an actor. Every line was a discovery, a delight of "oh, that's what he's thinking". No scenery chewing, but, damn, the dude is scary at times. (watching him make and share a sandwich had me writhing). His Macbeth is masculine, vigorous, cerebral (leading to his downfall, perhaps). His foil, Kate Fleetwood as Lady Macbeth, really holds her own against him; I can see her dashing the suckling babe all right. And then hoisted by her own petard in the end, ruined by her ambition instantly, no chance to enjoy the spoils.
The scene where Thane of Fife goes to England to beseech the Prince of Cumberland to come home and save Scotland really thrilled me. The actor Scot Handy gives a reading that had me utterly flummoxed ("I don't' remember this scene? Why is he talking like that? Did they re-write this? Oh, I get it!! Well done!") And to be given the enjoyment of Shakespeare all over again because an actor inhabits it newly delicious! Later, his physical revulsion and bravery in the final speech of the play was a great note to go out on. Likewise, Fife's breathing when he gets horrifying news, these are great actors and a great director. Not to mention the playwright.
I am going to buy this film.
The sound track is particularly masterful. Unnatural creepy perfect sounds. And it never lets up. I'll say no more. Go listen for yourself.
Nor does it ever appear as a staged film. The claustrophobic environment makes you long for fresh air. That the only outdoor scene has Banquo & Fleance in jeopardy, you are holding your breath for them, is additionally chilling.
The porter as a decrepit, drunken, save-your-arse kind of Irishman was an unexpected treat. Also, the feeling of a real company was very evident. Small roles like the Queen's maid and the Doctor, the milquetoast Steward who gets his spine in the end, and the porter who delivers the great line: "The Queen, my Lord, is dead.", all fit in beautifully.
There is not a clunker in the group; nor is a false note ever struck; and you cheer for the good guys and the relief of Light & the Good returning in the end.
If you don't really like or 'get' Shakespeare, see this. Not ONCE does it smack of obligatory literature. It is real, tough, in your face, compelling, and the witches will Rock you! Their presentation is terrific, unexpected and utterly perfect for this version of the play. The use of the horrors of conventional medicine is a hoot. They are Macbeth's own inner demons, made patently evident when he says "Enough.", as they disappear for the last time.
Much like Peter Jackson nailed the 'better & lesser angels of our nature' with the scene of Gollum talking to himself as both Smeagal & Gollum--this production holds a glass up to our ambition, recklessness & the inebriating quality of getting what you want. See it. It may save your soul. A tale of our times, written 418 years ago.
This is the best film performance of Macbeth which I have seen. It ranks with Ian McKellen's Richard III (1994/5) as a definitive production in an "updated" setting. Like McKellen's Richard III, Goold's Macbeth uses a staging suggestive of late 1930's - and does not seem out of place any more the McKellen's Richard III did. Patrick Stewart's interpretation and presentation of the Macbeth character is dynamic and cover's a wide range of expression. His Macbeth has a hesitant and sometimes seeming incomplete descent into pure evil. It was a masterful and dynamic performance. However, in my opinion, Stewart's co-star, Kate Fleetwood, just about steals the show. Her Lady Macbeth is pure evil from the start - she comes across as the cold pit viper lacking only visible fangs. Her performance here is truly the best I have seen since I saw Judith Anderson give a TV performance a long time ago. The integration of the 3 witches into the action throughout as 3 triage nurses was an imaginative element. This is a "hold on to your seat" production - grabbing your attention right at the start and moving at a steady pace to the last syllable of (its) recorded time - you will not leave your chair.
A visually brutal adaptation of a theatrical production that combines
the experience of stylized European director's theater with the
documentary-film imagery of war, Stalinist totalitarianism, dystopian
landscapes. The result is not as much a drama (although the acting
itself is riveting) as a series of rapidly-changing tableaux that bring
a striking newness to Shakespeare's language. Sir Patrick Stewart
performs the role of a lifetime. As a Shakespearian actor, he
manipulates Shakespeare's words so that they ring authentically, as if
we are hearing them for the first time.
This Macbeth channels the early Polish Roman Polanski, the imaginings of a Stanley Kubrick, the gritty grayness of 1984. It HAD to be shown as a PBS "Great Performances," for I cannot imagine it attracting a commercial audience, or even a film festival one, since it seems more like an brilliant artistic experiment that might have its most successful showing in the context of a museum. It is complex, worthy of endless dissection of words and images. My experience of it had less emotion involvement than fascination with creative process behind the filmmaking.
This is the best thing I've seen on television since the Sopranos.
Sharp, compelling performances by every actor surely must mark this
version of Macbeth as the must see drama of the year, if not the
decade. It is an extraordinarily delicious feast for the eyes and ears.
Sir Patrick Stewart gives us a shining, mad, diabolical egomaniac. He delivers every one of Shakespeare's words with exquisite timing and vibrant life. Kate Fleetwood's gripping portrayal of Lady Macbeth left me breathless.
The modern setting in that creepy, suffocating old building that breathes a sinister life of its own, just turns the trick to make this a true masterpiece at PBS.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is by far the best Macbeth I have ever seen. It is definitely not
just a camera filming a stage production, it is a horror film.
Everything from the acting to the lighting was fresh and original.
Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood are chillingly superb and the supporting cast just as good. There was not a weak link.
Some people have said that Patrick Stewart is too old to play this part, however there is absolutely no indication of age anywhere in the text. In fact, the age of Macbeth compared to that of his wife's actually helps support Macbeth's sudden lust for power. He is a man who was satisfied to be the star military general, but when he married a young, ambitious (crazy) woman, it gave him a reason to want more.
This is a better quality film than almost everything in theaters today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just finished watching Rupert Goold's film of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. As mentioned in the last post, I saw this production on Broadway and was eagerly awaiting the film version. Now I've seen a lot of great film Macbeths, including the Ian McKellen/Judi Dench version, the RSC film with Antony Sher, and Roman Polanski's. This film is the best Macbeth that you will ever see. In fact, scenes that I didn't find very effective on stage (Lady Macbeth's mad scene and and the long scene between Malcolm and Macduff) were very powerful in the movie. Patrick Stewart's performance is definitive. You can see every thought that passes through his mind. Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth charted her fall into insanity with such clarity that when Macbeth is told that she has died, it's no surprise to him or the audience. You see that there was no other end to her story. The Weird Sisters, here played as Nurses who have gone over to the dark side, are truly frightening. There is no weak link in this cast, the directing is thrillingly original, and the production design is stunning. It easily could have been shown in movie theaters. This Macbeth is set during the Cold War of the 1950's, and doesn't shy away from the shocking violence of a dictatorship. Characters are brutally executed, and the murder of Lady Macduff and her children is greatly disturbing, even though you see almost nothing happen. And to top it all off, Rupert Goold has the film end with the camera panning from location to location throughout the castle (the dining room, the kitchen, the Weird Sisters' morgue) and then closes with a shot of Macbeth and his Lady in the elevator, hand in hand. So we end with the idea that Macbeth's castle isn't just drenched in blood. It's haunted.
I love Shakespeare, and have seen various adaptations of his plays.
Macbeth was one of my first Shakespeares, and is a really powerful play
in its own right not just in the language and some of the imagery but
also in the characters and especially the story.
This Macbeth is more contemporary in its setting, but it is every bit as compelling as the play as it should be. In fact, this Macbeth is one of the most compelling adaptations of the play I've seen. Although contemporary(which didn't bother me at all by the way), the setting is still very well done. Some of it is truly beautiful to watch, but some of it is also appropriately bleak, and we have the skillful camera work and lighting to thank for that.
The story is still the compelling, gripping story I remember Macbeth by, and keeps the crucial elements in. Not only that, those crucial elements are very well done in their atmosphere, not just the encounters with the witches which are the epitome of creepiness but the mad scene which I don't always find effective but very much did here and the scene with Thane of Fife and Cumberland is also riveting. The dialogue is still wonderful and timed impeccably.
Rupert Goold's direction is very fine, and the soundtrack is also impressive with some really intentionally unsettling bits to it. Even some of the sound effects gave me shivers. The acting from Macbeth down to the smallest part is uniformly fantastic. Kate Fleetwood is absolutely transfixing being very beautiful, suitably evil and cold. Plus she really holds her own against Patrick Stewart, who is simply mesmerising as Macbeth. Not only in the charisma, but also the delivery of the lines, gestures and voice.
Overall, truly compelling and I was holding on to my seat for the entire duration. 10/10 Bethany Cox
This filming of Goold's production of Macbeth makes no bones (or blood,
or torn entrails) about its roots in extreme violence. This is a
Macbeth that is, at times, as much SAW or The Ring as it is the
This is not, in my view, a bad thing: Stewart is one of the few actors who can stand up against this kind of visceral attack and not be overwhelmed.
I found the witches, in their surgical masks and wielding autopsy saws, to be truly nasty spectres; they're continually lurking around in the background of the play, with their scenes integrated skillfully into the rest of the action.
The sound design is enormous, as of the bombardment of Stalingrad, and at times again threatens to become over-whelming; the atmosphere is of a world already dead, already blasted into dust. Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth is so frightfully evil, with her terrifying bone-structure and icy manner, that she sometimes threatens to become the centre of the play's evil.
This is a combination of Shakespeare, 1984, torture-porn and Eisenstein: a big, brutal, blasting Macbeth for a very modern audience. I cannot imagine the schoolboy who would not be enthralled, though it might repel the older audience member.
PS: regarding the earlier reviewer: Macbeth does NOT 'admonish' his wife with the phrase about 'bring forth men children only': it is the ultimate COMPLIMENT in a male dominated society as he goes on to prove with the words 'for thy UNDAUNTED mettle should compose nothing but men'.
The Macbeths are NOT young: he is a mature man: they have had children 'I have given suck' and their child is dead or gone; that is plain. If the scene has any contradictions, it's that, being past their chances of parenthood 'he has no children', he should hint that she will be fertile again.
This production solves that problem neatly by providing a significant age difference between the two leads: Macbeth the older man and the Lady nearing the end of her fertility.
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.
What seemed to work in Richard III, placing Richard as a Totalitarian
Dictator of the modern era, for this production of Macbeth placing
Macbeth as European Dictator, just ends up being a mannered play. The
pyrotechnics of the performers ends up drowning out the simplicity and
directness of Shakespeare's message: the guilt of conscience placing
limits on blind ambition. The Shakespeare script was memorable but
something was lost in the over-dramatization. This is one of my
favorite of Shakespeare's plays--one of the first I studied in high
school. This performance will not stand the test of time in the same
way that Ian McClellan's Richard III will.
There are really two different and distinct ideas Shakespeare presented. In Richard III--the play was about ruthless ambition, and ambition realized with ruthless, cold, calculating murder. Macbeth is about ruthless ambition AND conscience made palpable.
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