Number two in a series of six.
MACBETH – Roman Polanski - 1971
adapted for the screen by Roman Polanski and Kenneth Tynan
produced by Playboy
First Witch - Maisie MacFarquhar
Second Witch - Elsie Talyor
Third Witch - Noelle Rimmington
Macbeth - Ian Finch
Lady Macbeth - Francesca Annis
King Duncan - Nicholas Selby
Malcolm - Stephan Chase
Donalbain (youngest son) - Paul Shelley
Banquo - Martin Shaw
Ross - John Stride
Thane of Cawdor - Vic Abbott
Macduff (Thane of Fife) - Terence Bayler
Lady Macduff – Diane Fletcher, Macduff's son – Mark Dightam,
Lenox - Andrew
Laurence, Angus - Bernard Archard, Ross - John Stride, Seyton - Noel Davis Fleance - Keith Chegwin
Proving, once again, that incorporating cinematic technique can make any of Shakespeare’s plays more understandable and enjoyable, Polanski, brings formally off stage violence to the front, and has directed a visually stunning interpretation of one of the Bard’s most violent tragedies.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Thane of Glamis and a General in the Kings’ Army, is a fearless and daring warrior who has just won an important victory for Scotland and King Duncan. Polanski uses the sounds of battle in voice over as the titles roll.
Upon leaving the field of battle, Macbeth, his friend and fellow warrior, Banquo, are each given a prophecy by three witches; Macbeth shall become king, but Banquo shall father future kings.
Macbeth, however, knows that he can never legitimately be appointed king. Why that could not happen is a detail that both Shakespeare and Polanski make obscure until after he has been crowned - Act 3, Scene 1 - "Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown and put a barren scepter in my grip." –. The birth of their only child, which died soon after, left Lady Macbeth barren… they could never produce an heir. If he is to fulfill the witches’ prophecy…
........ they are left with murder as the only option. And as the tragic story reveals, it is murder that drives them both into madness.
Polanski does not have to resort to his imagination to see the world as grim and
threatening. Please remember, he is a child of the Holocaust and watched his parents being marched off to the death camps. He survived until the end of the war on garbage and stolen food.
Exercising his prerogative as director, Polanski set up the character Ross as the betrayer who left Macduff’s castle doors open to the murderers. Some critics saw Polanski’s staging of the savage murder of Macduff’s family as a restaging of his wife’s murder just six months previously.
His movie is made even darker still by the camera work f Gilbert Taylor who took full advantage of the rainy, dark days that hounded the production.
Polanski resorted special effects lightening to further enhance his black mood. It’s doubtful that anyone, after watching this movie, will be booking a flight to Scotland soon.
Following Orson Welles’s lead Polanski adapted a circular narrative style, beginning with the Witches' prophecies delivered to Macbeth and Banquo, and ending with Donalbain’s visit to their layer… possibly seeking to confirm his destiny. This ending is not part of the original play.
Taking advantage of film technique, Polanski staged the long soliloquies to be delivered in voice-over action, which focuses and holds the viewers’ attention.
These narrative deliveries also help compensate for the cunning nature missing in both Franscesca Annis and her husband Jon Finch who were much too youthful for these black and demanding roles.
Roman Polanski tried to get funding from three major studios but they all turned him down; none of them believed that he was capable of directing a money-making Shakespeare movie. Polanski met Hugh Hefner at a party and Mr. Hefner agreed to put up almost two and a half million for the project.
Once the filming got started they ran into what Polanski called “shitty weather”, which delayed shooting. England has notoriously bad weather in the fall, and it’s kind of strange that they would begin in October.
After about a month of losing money and putting up with Polanski’s whining about the weather, the financers - although they didn’t want to “murder” Polanski - did want to fire him. A second unit director was hired to shoot some of the scenes. To help ease the strain on the budget, Polanski gave up a third of his director’s fees and Heff coughed up another half mil.
Although the film was turned down by the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, it got positive recognition by the National Board of Review which named it Best Film of the year.