Macbeth Movie (1971) Summary
Polanski’s Macbeth: Reimagining a Timeless Masterpiece for a New Time Period
Macbeth Movie Review: Introduction
Macbeth, also known as ‘’The Scottish Play’’ is a relatively short stage play by William Shakespeare in 1606, in 1971 it was adapted into a movie by the Polish director, Roman Polanski. Even though the film remains faithful to the play, various stylistic choices and the choices in cinematography differ from the traditions of the play. Macbeth, in a quick summary, is the story of the titular character. Macbeth is a brave and virtuous Scottish Thane loyal to then-king Duncan, fresh off of a victory against a rebellion. Three witches appear before Macbeth and deliver him ominous prophecies of him becoming a king in the future. These prophecies lead him on a bloody path where he murders his King Macduff, his close friend Banquo and many many more. On this bloody path, Macbeth grows in status and power but deteriorates mentally and psychologically, loses his morality and humanity, becomes merely a hollow shell.
On the surface level, the movie is, as stated before, a faithful recreation of the movie as the characters, their relations, and their motivations remain the same. The plot retains its pure, linear nature. This isn't a reimagining of the play like Mark Brozel's Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth (2005); however, adapting a stage play to a movie allows the director a few individual liberties. Most notably, the movie is much more gruesome and bloody. For example: Traditionally, Macbeth slaughtering Duncan happens offscreen, however in the movie, this bloody murder is depicted quite viscerally, Macbeth brutally kills Duncan onscreen. The gruesome depictions carry on throughout the movie.
Another example would be the banquet scene where Macduff's ghost appears. It's a crucial part of the plot as it's one of the steps that show the audience that Macbeth is slowly going insane with the guilt from his actions. However, Macduff's ghost appears in a Much more bloodied and gory visage the movie retains its bloody nature until the very end until Macbeth is decapitated in an equally gruesome fashion. In my opinion, this much blood compared to the stage play in this movie, compliments the ideas of the movie. The first main idea I've come across is Macbeth's mind cannot accept reality, so it forges its own reality. In other words, Macbeth's actions drive him crazy. In this denied reality we see a Virtuous and Loyal Macbeth, get tempted by ambition and kill not only his King but also his guest in his sleep, this ambition leads to paranoia as he kills people that he thinks that'll be a thorn on his side or hamper his aspirations.
This leads us to the central theme of the movie, at least in my opinion, which also forms the main conflict that Macbeth faces: ''Ambitions Vs. Morality'' But at every turn, Macbeth chooses the darker path of his ambitions. On this darker path, Macbeth loses not only his morality but also his humanity. At the end of his story, he's a hollow shell, devoid of any feeling, even unmoved by the death of his wife as he claims, ''She should've died hereafter''. Macbeth's feral ambitions stripe him of all of his humanity. However, in spite of the fact that Macbeth deems himself irredeemable after killing Duncan and is convinced that he is keeping the death of Duncan a secret, he was still able to stop the killings and use his power as a king to pardon himself. However, in his insanity, he denies this possibility and keeps going down this dark and bloody path
To further elaborate on the relationship between blood and ambition throughout the movie and the choices in cinematography to compliment this, most notable example would be the close-up shot of Duncan's crown falling as Macbeth stabs him, and Macbeth putting his crown back on during his final stand When these scenes are put side-to-side they are obviously juxtaposed with each other. In both instances, the falling of the crown means the end of their reign. Macbeth putting his crown back on is nothing but a desperate attempt to cling into what little he has left but to no avail. Throughout the play, he lost his morality, his humanity, and even his wife because of his actions. And now he's going to lose the only thing he has left, and he cannot accept this. It's because of these reasons, the choices in cinematography and directing add an extra layer to the themes compared to any other stage play. Such as the ''Tomorrow'' Soliloquy being delivered by Macbeth's internal voice rather than Macbeth providing it himself, which is not something that can be done in traditional stage plays and depicts a more deranged and detached Macbeth. Upon closer inspection, Macbeth, despite appearing self-serving and focused only on his own personal gain, isn't as self-motivated as he initially seems.
His actions are always either encouraged or presented to him by someone else. In other words, if he didn't encounter the witches at the beginning or if his wife didn't encourage him to kill Duncan, he might've never did any of these awful things. This might even However once he kills Duncan the rest of these actions are set in motion. In the other hand one can argue that Macbeth's fate is sealed once this prophecy is delivered to him. I don't subscribe to this fatalistic outlook as it makes everything else, the themes, the decisions, and the ideas moot. Because if everything he's going to do is already set out for him any conflict he faces, any action he takes and any decision he makes is inconsequential because they're all already predetermined.
Macbeth himself, on the other hand, seems to be quite fatalistic, as he pays another visit to the witches, in their lair, for another prophecy. This is where the ending is also foreshadowed, as not only Macbeth's decapitated head briefly appear on his dream but also beware Macduff warning is accompanied by a vision of a baby being born with a C section, which once again, falls in with ''Not a woman born shall harm Macbeth'' prophecy, which points towards Macbeth's end at the hands of Macduff.
To summarise everything accumulated thus far, in my opinion, Macbeth is not only the downfall of a man from a mental, material and physical standpoint, not only because of the consequences of his actions coming back to face him but also because his mind is unable to accept the reality it finds itself in and forges its own but also a cautionary tale in its own right. How blind ambition and avarice brings one's doom and hurts the people around him.