I have a Shakespeare class this semester, which means that I’ve been inundated with different versions of Macbeth so we can compare them. One of the films we watched in class was this version with Patrick Stewart playing the titular role. It was significantly creepy and awesome.
First of all, the setting was updated. Macbeth’s war features updated military weapons, yes, and also an updated backdrop, as his intense military tactics and murderous dictatorship are portrayed to be something akin to Germany or Russia in the 1940s.
Then there are the witches, who are CRAZY. I literally gaped at the screen when they first appeared, dressed as nurses, pretending that they were going to save a soldier, before they ripped out his heart and spoke their first lines. And this is all in the first scene, setting the mood for the entire film.
There’s a lot of blood and death, but where would Macbeth be without all of that? Because it’s a film and not a play, there’s the chance to make it all a little more intense, a little more gruesome. Particularly when Macbeth & crew go around murdering innocent people and children. It gets to the point where you realize he’s going to kill anyone who may even think about getting in his way, and you see how utterly mad with power he is now that he’s fulfilled the witches’ prophecy.
Still, the play is pretty long, and the film does drag in some points–which is a little unbelievable, what with all the action they have to work with in the text. Patrick Stewart as Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood as his Lady are wonderfully conniving, despicable, and compelling characters. They pull through where I feel the intensity starts to wane, somewhere between the initial murder and then the build-up to all of the insanity culminating in a brutal finish.