I love all Shakespeare, but for some reason Macbeth is not among my favorite works of the Bard. Nor do I think that the brilliance of Shakespeare's darker plays are usually well-handled by directors. Consequently, I am difficult to impress when it comes to individual film or DVD productions of the play. I consider Polanski's very traditional 1971 version to be the best (a 9 rating), and my second favorite version is Jason Connery's underrated and rare 1997 production (which I rate an 8). For me, both Orson Welles', Ian McKellen's, Jeremy Brett's and now Patrick Stewart's versions rate no higher than a 7 out of 10, and that goes for Kurosawa's Throne of Blood as well. They're good, but considering how marvelously Shakespeare CAN be staged or filmed (think Branagh or Taymor), they are just not THAT good. Nicol Williamson in the BBC version was very underwhelming to me, although Jane Lapotaire as Lady Macbeth was at least as good as, perhaps better than, Francesca Annis in the Polanski version.
What was wrong with Patrick Stewart's 2010 version? It had many good things and scenes in it. But I found it to be too dark (yes, such a thing is very much possible) and in places too dull and drawn-out. I liked the whole Stalin motif, but setting the play in an underground bunker just smacks of low-budget requirements. That it all sort of took place in hell was perhaps an interesting take, but it's not the kind of thing that resonates with me. I want an interesting, variegated, poetic environment; one that does Shakespeare's words justice, and provides an interesting interpretation of the scenes and phrases. A limited environment of darkness does nothing of the sort. But perhaps this all owes to the budgetary restraints. I admit they did go far with little - there were some impressive scenes here and there.
Comparing this production with Ian McKellen's 1995 Richard III movie is very apt; McKellen did enact Adolf Hitler; Stewart did enact Joseph Stalin. Both productions had a war motif, a tyrant motif, murderers serving the king, etc. It is hard to believe that McKellen's RIII performance did not significantly inspire this Macbeth.
Is it worth your while? Definitely. It is made by people who have an obvious understanding of staging Shakespeare, which in itself is very good. However, a fabulous masterpiece it is not. Good, but not THAT good.
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