MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)


“Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”

My general opinion is that what happened during the making of a movie should have nothing to do with the opinion formed of the finished product.  The same way that I have zero interest in what a movie is trying to do or say.  The only thing that matters is what it actually does or says.  I don’t care what was going on in a film maker’s life when they made it, or the studio medaling that is accused of corrupting their pure intentions.  The only thing that should matter is what makes it to the screen.

But then I read that Roman Polanksi took an already bloody Shakespeare tragedy, and ramped up the violence and bloodshed.  What makes that interesting, is that this is the movie he was making just a few years after Charles Manson’s followers brutally murdered Polanksi’s wife, Sharon Tate.  For some morbid reason, that really added to my interest levels as I pressed play on Polanksi’s The Tragedy of Macbeth.

After leading a pretty impressive 15th century victory over the Italians and Irish, Scottish Lord Macbeth (Jon Finch) is praised by his Scotland’s King Duncan (Nicholas Selby).   On the way home from the battle, Macbeth runs into three witches, whose bubble, bubble, toil and trouble leads to them make a prediction that Macbeth will himself become king.  He sends word to his wife, Lady Macbeth (Frances Annis) who decides this is a prophecy that they should pursue.  Especially since King Duncan is on his way to stay at their castle in Inverness.

On Duncan’s first night there, Macbeth and the missus murder him and successfully frame two of Duncan’s servants.  Macbeth claims the crown, but it’s not long before the rest of the witches’ prophecy begins to come true.  The parts of the prophecy that predict his future won’t necessarily be long or ultimately happy.

I’m not sure how much time passes in the world of Macbeth while its story is being told, but over the course of the two and a bit hours of the movie, Jon Finch as the titular character seems to age by a lot of years.  And you know what, even if the story takes place over the course of a few weeks, that aging is still perfect.  Macbeth is so completely overtaken with guilt and regret from the second he murders Duncan, that the tired, aged look that takes over his body from then on makes perfect sense, regardless of how much time is suppose dot have actually passed.

I think the same can be said for his crown.  When I first saw it on King Duncan’s head, I thought it looked like a cheap prop.  But as the movie went on and Macbeth’s claim to the thrones seemed more and more tenuous, his grip on sanity less and less convincing, the chintziness of the crown became more and more appropriate to his right to wear it.

So, in the end, my interest in Macbeth being sparked by Roman Polanski’s personal tragedies had no effect on what I liked or didn’t like about this movie.  It turns out, I liked it for the boring old reason that it is an amazing story, told really well.  Jon Finch is a dude I had never heard of before today.  But thanks to Roman Polanksi’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, he’s a dude whose work I need to become more familiar with.

The Tragedy of Macbeth
Directed By – Roman Polanski
Written By – Roman Polanski, Kenneth Tynan

One thought on “MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s