Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.
The Moorish General Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his Lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality, it is all part of the scheme of a bitter Ensign named Iago.
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 <email@example.com>
Laurence Olivier wanted to follow up Henry V (1944) with a film version of "Macbeth", but decided against it because Orson Welles' version would reach theaters first. Olivier opted to make his film of Hamlet (1948) instead, which went on to win him Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor. See more »
Duncan and his men renew their baptismal vows with a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. See more »
The edited version had a prologue spoken by Welles before any lines of Shakespeare's play were even uttered. In the prologue, Welles explains that the witches are "agents of hell...plotting against Christian law and order" and that "here on the blasted heath", the spell is put upon Macbeth. Most books which discuss the Welles film mention Welles's narration, apparently completely unaware that it does not appear at all in the complete, restored version of the film. See more »
I got an angry email from a reader upset that I thought Olivier's "Hamlet" to be worthless.
I hold that view because of a personal appreciation of Shakespeare.
What I appreciate of his work is the unique way that his words can weave small cells of images, ambiguous layered and rich. Lovely as well, to tease their way into our souls. These little packages of firework wordimages burst on the tongues we listen with and successively whip a foam that perfectly follows the shape of the larger story.
He does this in different ways: "Tempest," "Ceasar," "Juliet" are all different and different from this play in how he structures this foamnarrative. This is not favorite among the great plays because it is excessively sonorous. I believe this to have something to do with Will's obsessions with word origins and his emphasis on Saxon structures.
Olivier is a typical British actor, someone that sees the words as merely shapes for the mouth and incidentally related to the grand arcs and tensions of the long composition. They are excuses for locution. Such actors disconnect the poetry from the massive stones that pass through the narrative.
This on the other hand is as well conceived as Olivier's Hamlet is mere posturing. It takes the poetry and uses it to build the whole. Welles mucks around with the play, reassigning text, creating new characters and editing heavily, but all to a coherent purpose. His army of cross bearers is something you will never forget.
But he does something else. All the changes, all the special attentions. All the theatrical devices are geared toward the cinematic expression. This isn't just a production by Welles. It was THE production. He'd been doing this for a decade. His theatrical production was the first cinematic play in history, and his work on it (and most of the players) came to Hollywood prepared, which is why we got "Citizen Kane."
This is terrific Shakespeare. This is terrific cinema. To my taste, "Othello" was even better. More layers. More ambiguity. More patina. And highly architectural.
But this. My friends. Shakespeare is special. Don't trust your soul with someone not worthy.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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