Movie Analysis on Polanski's Macbeth
During the Shakespearean age the prominent forms of entertainment in society were plays. However, as time went on, technology soon began to take the forefront, as inventors soon started to focus on other outlets to entertain the general public. The result of such an effort was the video camera which allowed directors to turn literature, plays, and their mere imagination into visual masterpieces. The movie had several advantages over the once popular play. Now, films could produce stronger images to its viewers through visual effects and production design while also incorporating the directors personal interpretation of the play and it’s purpose. One director who elaborated on the uses of personal interpretation within films, was Roman Polanski. In particular, Polanski’s film of the Shakespearean play Macbeth uses a plethora of cinematic interpretation by incorporating the use of characters, production/shot design, and symbolism.
When reading the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth the reader tends to formulate images of an older Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, thus, it was surprising when Polanski’s interpretive film casted the main characters as youthful and attractive newlyweds. However, Polanski’s interpretative choice not only made the play more appealing to the viewers, but added to the plot as well. By Polanski’s portrayal of the two youthful characters in Macbeth he emphasizes the pure passion of the great tragedy. Because the two characters are so young, their naïve personas are alleviated through a passion for material gain and recognition. One particular scene in the film portrays such a naïve passion. It takes place when Macbeth returns home after being pronounced the Thane of Cawdor. When he enters the scene Lady Macbeth runs to Macbeth and throws her arms around him has he carries her up the stairs in his arms. They then are seen on the bed, laughing and kissing showing their somewhat ‘giddy’ immaturity as they speak of Macbeth’s new title as Thane. However, after Lady Macbeth hears that King Duncan is coming to their castle, she changes her tone as she tells Macbeth of the plan to kill the reigning King. The tone Lady Macbeth uses conveys nothing but a youthful passion for worldly gain, while incorporating a naive inability to see the consequences of their actions. This passion, although hard to trace, was originally incorporated in the play. However, because of Polanski’s interpretive choice to have Macbeth and Lady Macbeth portrayed as youthful, he added to the fundamental passion of the great Shakespearean tragedy.
Other creative interpretations that Polanski added to Shakespeare’s play were symbols portrayed through visual effects within a particular shot. Shakespeare used a plethora of symbols in his play Macbeth, however, the symbol of blood seemed to be the most important to Shakespeare due to it’s reoccurrence several times throughout the play. The symbol of blood is also used in Polanski’s film version of Macbeth, however he uses his interpretation in the form of visual effects and shot design to emphasize Shakespeare’s original theme. There are two important examples of when Polanski’s uses shot design to interpret the blood symbolism in the film. The first important shot occurs the morning after Macbeth kills King Duncan. Due to Polanski’s creative genius he sets up the shot to have the red tinted sunrise shine directly on Macbeth’s and King Duncan’s chambers. This red tint symbolizes the blood shed by the cruel murder of King Duncan by Macbeth and adds to the emotion and corruption of the film. Likewise, in a later scene Polanski uses the same red tint to display similar attributes. This scene occurs when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are lying in bed and Macbeth says the sorrowful line, “I am in blood, stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” Due to Polanski’s shot design in this scene, the importance of this line is strengthened by showing the viewer through the crimson overtone the deaths the tragic hero has caused and the guilt that he bears.
Finally, Polanski adds additional scenes to Shakespeare’s original version of Macbeth, in the form of symbolism. The most important interpretive scene in Polanski’s film is the bear baiting scene. In this scene the viewers are shown a bear restrained by chains, as dogs teeth bearing dogs are released on the helpless creature. The camera then pans the crowd and focuses on Macbeth’s character. Polanski added this interpretive scene to symbolize and foreshadow the hamartia of the tragic hero Macbeth. Polanski’s use of the bear in the scene, was to symbolize Macbeth’s character. Like the bear, Macbeth exterior image is thought to be strong and powerful, unwilling to admit that he is only human. However, no matter how powerful the bear appears, he is eventually killed by those lesser then him. This is true for Macbeth as well, as he gains a false sense of security about his own death from the three witch, he doesn’t realize until it’s too late that he is still destructible.
Roman Polanski’s film Macbeth displays an in-depth look and understanding of Shakespeare’s original play. The interpretive film uses character casting, shot design, and symbolism to engage its viewer’s attentions by adding to the plot of the play. All in all, Roman Polanski’s film was a interpretive success and truly a visual masterpiece for its time.