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176 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Macbeth You'll Ever See
I just finished watching Rupert Goold's film of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. As mentioned in the last post, I saw this production on Broadway and was eagerly awaiting the film version. Now I've seen a lot of great film Macbeths, including the Ian McKellen/Judi Dench version, the RSC film with Antony Sher, and Roman Polanski's. This film is the...
Published on October 8, 2010 by Amazon Customer

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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood in the kitchen
This review does not principally address Shakespeare's play, nor the acting in this version, which is generally excellent, within its constraints. I am addressing the production's most obvious feature: it's relocation in time, and it's staging.

We are in the 20th Century here. This is no defect. The actual era of Macbeth is extremely misty--it is quite...
Published on June 13, 2011 by F. O'Neill


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176 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Macbeth You'll Ever See, October 8, 2010
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
I just finished watching Rupert Goold's film of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. As mentioned in the last post, I saw this production on Broadway and was eagerly awaiting the film version. Now I've seen a lot of great film Macbeths, including the Ian McKellen/Judi Dench version, the RSC film with Antony Sher, and Roman Polanski's. This film is the best Macbeth that you will ever see. In fact, scenes that I didn't find very effective on stage (Lady Macbeth's mad scene and and the long scene between Malcolm and Macduff) were very powerful in the movie. Patrick Stewart's performance is definitive. You can see every thought that passes through his mind. Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth charted her fall into insanity with such clarity that when Macbeth is told that she has died, it's no surprise to him or the audience. You see that there was no other end to her story. The Weird Sisters, here played as Nurses who have gone over to the dark side, are truly frightening. There is no weak link in this cast, the directing is thrillingly original, and the production design is stunning. It easily could have been shown in movie theaters. This Macbeth is set during the Cold War of the 1950's, and doesn't shy away from the shocking violence of a dictatorship. Characters are brutally executed, and the murder of Lady Macduff and her children is greatly disturbing, even though you see almost nothing happen. And to top it all off, Rupert Goold has the film end with the camera panning from location to location throughout the castle (the dining room, the kitchen, the Weird Sisters' morgue) and then closes with a shot of Macbeth and his Lady in the elevator, hand in hand. So we end with the idea that Macbeth's castle isn't just drenched in blood. Now it's haunted.
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Stewart: Macbeth, October 11, 2010
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
This is the best version of this play you will ever see. Patrick Stewart has grabbed the crown. I have seen Macbeth numerous times and because I know it by heart I expected little in the way of anything new. I was wrong. This version is outright spooky, scary, and unsettling. There are shocking touches such as one of the witches pulling out a war wounded soldier's heart. You may never trust a "night nurse" again. The unbelievable intensity of Lady Macbeth will screw you to your seat and give you nightmares. Her sleepwalking moments will take your breath away and make you squirm. New, fresh, dynamic and awesome. I was wondering how this production would pull off the "porter" scene. It was raw and disgusting - just the right touch for this adaptation. No comic relief here, unless you are a psycho. All of the other Machbeth's may go home now. You are no longer needed.
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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare Most Amazing..., October 8, 2010
By 
B.E.F. (the Somme, 1916) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
*
Shakespeare Most Amazing...

Firstly, let's understand something: this is cinema art--a motion picture, not a filmed stage performance. Therefore the director (Rupert Goold), cinematographer, set designers et alii are enabled to make brilliant choices concerning the visuals, sound, lighting, and other stunning effects.

There have been many wonderful film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays (since Olivier's 1948 Hamlet).
Personal favourites include Olivier's 1955 Richard III, Olivier's 1965 Othello, Peter Hall's 1968 A Midsummer Night's Dream, Polanski's 1971 Macbeth, Branagh's 1989 Henry V, Greenaway's 1991 Prospero's Books [The Tempest], Richard Loncraine's 1995 Richard III, Branagh's 1996 Hamlet, Julie Taymor's 1999 Titus [Titus Andronicus], Michael Radford's 2004 Merchant of Venice, and Gregory Doran's 2009 Hamlet.

Here Rupert Goold's Macbeth is the summum bonum of all its predecessors.

Goold has taken all the best ideas from the aforementioned film adaptations, added all the latest technical innovations, combined the most brilliant original ideas, and synthesized all into a visually stunning and dramatically devastating presentation of Shakespeare's poetry: it is simply an unnatural wonder of song and Schein (as Wilde and Nietzsche would each term it).

The acting and elocution are fabulous: Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood deserve all theatrical appreciation.

Moreover, the execution of the tragedy is utterly remarkable: Goold and company employ concepts of 1930's totalitarianism and militarism (cf. Loncraine's Richard III) with Greenaway's grotesque details (cf. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) and the creepiness of Alan Parker's Angel Heart, together with the suffocating CCTV effects of Doran's Hamlet and Branagh's Sleuth, and the gritty combat scenarios of Zak Snyder's 300, plus the bunker atmosphere of Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall, resulting in an incomparable presentation and setting for Shakespeare's logos.

(The only thing we're missing is Greenaway's extravagant nudity...)

Oh--and let us not forget the c r a z y twisted Weird Sisters: must be seen to be believed!

*
Richard III
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Henry V
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Hamlet
Angel Heart
Downfall
300
*
EDIT Nov. 2010: Julie Taymor has just issued a new film version of The Tempest: The Tempest;
see too Ralph Finnes's Coriolanus.

*
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spectacular and Terrifying Macbeth on DVD, October 10, 2010
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This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
I have seen both live and filmed versions of Macbeth over the years, but none made a greater impression than this version that I caught on PBS on Wednesday, October 6. I was going to watch the first hour of Macbeth--a story I knew well--and then turn to another program, but I couldn't turn the channel because I had been ineluctably drawn into the drama and era. The play is set in late 1930s or early 1940s fascist Europe. Scotland is a fascist country similar to Italy and Germany of the time, and is at war with democratic England. Film clips of fascist Italy and communist Soviet Union are used to portray the armies of Scotland. As happens in fascism and militarism, affairs between leaders are often settled by murder and assassination in particularly brutal ways. The setting is similar to the 1995 version of Richard III staring Ian McKellen that was so effective with the late 1930s militaristic uniforms, automobiles, and settings.

To say this Macbeth is excellently acted is an understatement: the acting and elocution are terrific, that of Patrick Stewart as Macbeth and every single other character. Every word is completely discernible. The costumes, scenery, and staging are also spectacular. For three hours I watched with complete attention and fascination--I literally could not turn away from the drama on the screen. After Macbeth has decided to go over to the dark side at his wife's urging, the staging has frequent moments of impending menace and dread, such as when he matter-of-factually prepares ham sandwiches while he instructs his assassins about how to murder Banquo and his son. Others include the impending murder of Macduff's wife and children, Lady Macbeth's horrifying visions during her sleepwalking scene, the hilarious and disturbing impromptu dance to a Russian folk song that the guests use to unsuccessfully alleviate the dread and tension during the banquet scene, and the three weird sisters portrayed as preternatural witches in the guise of malevolent military nurses.

The entirety of the staging, scenery, and direction is completely thought out to make this an inspired, effective, and completely engrossing drama. The terror in Macbeth becomes palpable and some of the images will remain with you. I will certainly buy the DVD when it becomes available and I encourage readers to do so also. This will surely become the standard Macbeth on DVD.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secretest Man of Blood, November 26, 2010
By 
Peg Pru (Swansea, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
I can add little to the insightful comments of the previous reviewers of the PBS Great Performances production of Macbeth. I was enthralled by the stage production in NYC, and was excited to watch this filmed version on PBS. I eagerly await the DVD as a somewhat belated Christmas present.

This is, quite simply, the best production of "the Scottish play" that I have ever seen. Rupert Goolds's direction is flawless, transforming his brilliant stage production into an equally brilliant film production. Patrick Stewart's Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood's Lady Macbeth are pitch perfect. Look for Stewart's unique interpretation and delivery of the "Tomorrow" speech, courtesy of a suggestion by Sir Ian McKellen. Sir Patrick is a true titan of the theatre, a worthy successor to Olivier and Gielgud, two giants of the stage.

For anyone who loves Shakespeare, and especially Macbeth, this DVD is a must-have. You will never see an equal to this riveting production.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Re-imagining Macbeth, January 28, 2011
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This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
Days after watching Patrick Stewart play the lead in this newly released Macbeth on DVD, and I can't get the adaptation out of my head.

While remaining mostly true to the Bard's language, everything else about this brilliantly re-imagined version of the Scottish Play is brand new. Director Rupert Goold drags the tragedy out of the distant past and into some cryptic, World War II-era hospital netherworld, with the Wyrd Sisters serving as nurses who are as likely to kill their patients as save them. (More likely, actually.)

Stewart is brilliant as Macbeth, and Kate Fleetwood seductively evil as his "fiend-like queen." Half the fun is watching how the familiar parts of the play -- the dagger of the mind, the witches' cauldron scenes, the forest coming to Dunsinane -- are given a fresh coat of paint. Despite being Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, this lasts 180 minutes, the runtime bloated with shocking imagery and avant garde camera angles. Nevertheless, the lines themselves are perfectly clear, and when things get too gory, all one needs to do is close the eyes to experience the grandeur of Shakespeare's language.

A few caveats: The Porter, the only piece of comic relief in the original, is here made cutting edge and dangerous. Following a scene where he urinates in a sink (which Macbeth later uses to wash his hands) and mimics sodomizing a little girl, he pops up like Rambo in the closing scenes, fighting alongside Stewart with a belt of bullets slung over his shoulder. The climax itself is too action-movie like for my tastes, although the shot of Lord and Lady Macbeth descending to hitherto unreachable depths of their underworld home via elevator is the perfect closing scene. Call it a suitable coda to this dark exploration of ambition unchecked by morality.

The DVD has no extras, but purchase does support the Public Broadcasting Service, always a plus.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacBeth as a horror movie, March 13, 2011
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This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
From the first moments of this inspired re-imagining of Shakespeare the viewer is gripped by the creepiness of the tale. I can't help thinking Shakespeare would approve and applaud this interpretation. It is very disturbing and at times you'd think you were watching something like Saw. The witches were especially creepy, and were utilized in scenes where they'd normally not be included. My only complaint is that it should've included the Paula Zahn interview that was available at the Great Performances website. Patrick Stewart remarks on how scary his co-star was, and she was nearly a vampire in this. It remains true to the original text, and is not simply using the story as in many modern adaptations. Everyone in the cast is excellent, though I had trouble understanding the insolence of the porter. I suspect this MacBeth is not for everyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something wicked this way comes, February 27, 2011
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
Patrick Stewart is one of the few great Shakespearean actors alive today -- you could give this guy any role, and he would enthrall you. So he seems like an obvious choice for the title role of Shakespeare's legendary play "Macbeth." This 2010 adaptation is a dark, industrial, grimy affair, with plenty of blood and eerie effects.

Shortly after a victory in battle, Macbeth (Stewart) and his friend Banquo (Martin Turner) are traveling home across a heath when they encounter three witches dresses as nurses. They greet him with "All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter!"

When MacBeth is made Thane of Cawdor, he naturally begins to think that being king might be next in line. And when King Duncan (Paul Shelley) visits his castle, Lady MacBeth (Suzanne Burden) goads her husband into murdering the king and framing a couple of innocent servants for the deed. As the witches predicted, MacBeth becomes king of Scotland.

But the witches also prophesied that Banquo would be the father of kings, so MacBeth starts tying off loose ends by hiring assassins to kill Banquo and his young son, as well as a wily thane named MacDuff and all of his family. But though MacBeth believes himself to be safe from everyone, his fear begins to grow as madness and guilt torment him and his wife.

One of the most fascinating things about "Macbeth" is how evil it is -- mass murder, insanity, bloody ghosts, a trio of manipulative witches, and a weak man who becomes a raving murderous paranoiac. First-time director Rupert Goold seizes on all the blood, darkness and horror of the story, and splashes it all over this adaptation.

Seriously. This is VERY gory and violent: severed heads, ripped-out hearts, and dead bodies all over the place. The only place where Goold holds back is when Macduff's children are killed -- instead he conveys their deaths in a chilling but less graphic way.

The setting is very effective as well -- lots of industrial grime, shadowy rooms, and vast echoing halls with blasts of pale light. Additionally, there are some incredibly weird moments that make the story even more eerie, such as the three witches jerking and spasming through a room filled with dead bodies, or Banquo walking silently over MacBeth's table.

Goold's one drawback is that sometimes the actors get kind of... over-the-top. But Stewart is an absolute joy to play -- he gives a beautifully understated performance that taps into all Macbeth's weakness, greed, fear and madness. Just look at the odd scene where everybody starts dancing -- Stewart's energetic jumps are tinged with desperation, like he's frantically trying to look cheerful.

Burden makes an excellent Lady M., although she seems a bit young for Stewart -- her stark white face and grasping hands make her really look the part, and she has a jittery, hungry energy. and there are solid performances by Michael Feast, Scott Handy, and those women who play the witches.

Patrick Stewart is the heart of 2010's "Macbeth," but this adaptation also has lots of chilling, nightmarish freakiness all on its own. Just don't watch it around small children.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood in the kitchen, June 13, 2011
By 
F. O'Neill (Upperville, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
This review does not principally address Shakespeare's play, nor the acting in this version, which is generally excellent, within its constraints. I am addressing the production's most obvious feature: it's relocation in time, and it's staging.

We are in the 20th Century here. This is no defect. The actual era of Macbeth is extremely misty--it is quite certainly not Elizabethan. A tale of maddened ambition, bloody tyranny, a state defiled is certainly at home in the dungeon-century we have just crawled out of (and into what, one might ask?). The opening scene (on a battlefield) seems first to be World War I--perhaps in Serbia or some such place. Later, the Second War comes to seem more likely.

The opening setting is some kind of field hospital within a large fortification (subterranean largely, elevators--the Maginot line?). The "Bloody Man,"--the injured Scottish messenger--is interviewed by senior officers (I am assuming some familiarity with the play) while being given blood, attention to an abdominal wound, evidently severe, etc. This is highly convincing. It is therefore chilling to discern that the nurses are the Three Witches on their first appearance. What is more fearsome than an evil nurse? Left alone with him, the witches appear to kill him for his heart. Good lord! This production is off and running.

But Macbeth is a dangerous place. Theatre people fear the play. It is just where to meet a hobgoblin. And hobgoblins, with the face of Consistency, are known to haunt small minds. Having gotten into this odd structure, our production can't get out. The entire play (with a couple of exceptions to be noted) takes place in a white-tiled, but dirty, institutional kitchen, or possibly latrine, or possibly both. Underground.

King Duncan lives in it. The Macbeths live in it (forcing Duncan, arriving at their "castle" to exclaim, "This castle hath a pleasant seat..." while apparently in the Subway). The exigences of latrine life take their toll on court etiquette: Lady Macbeth, Countess of Cawdor, is shown wiping down her own kitchen and dishing up fowls for the King as though she were Blondie Bumstead (admittedly, her kitchen help consists exclusively of the Three Witches, who never go away).

I promised some excursions from the latrine. We are, of course, in Scotland under a tyranny. Quite a number of the personae take refuge off and on in England. They are able to travel between the two capitols by a convenient steam express, presumably the old Flying Scotsman. Banquo and his son are assaulted in their flight--Banquo is murdered, of course, his boy escapes--by the railroad tea-service staff, who have become Macbeth's tame thugs--a chilling detail for those brought up in terror of British Railways tea. There is a good scene with snarling police dogs and goose-stepping troops in the background outside a comparatively normal residence that Macbeth once uses. (It is gracious of the production to make the 20th Century monster Macbeth is turning into Stalin and not the ever-popular Hitler.)

Tragedy cannot endure bathos. Bathos is what is going on here as Lady Macbeth seems to look for the Saran-Wrap in her inconvenient kitchen, in the tea-service murders, in the inability of anyone to go anywhere except in a giant elevator, in Banquo's corpse laboriously getting up in the train carriage (has it stopped?) and plodding off, like Bela Lugosi, to appear at Macbeth's dinner (where the waitresses will be...the witches).

If the other aspects of the production were silly as all this, the enterprise would simply not matter. But there is much here that is good, even very good. Macbeth as...Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, the ghastly Ghaddafi, Stalin?...is a perfectly valid idea (though he proves much easier to get rid of than they--Shakespeare didn't know everything we do). Macbeth himself (perhaps he has read Tony Tanner's magisterial "Prefaces to Shakespeare") marvelously projects his character's strangely clear sight (Macbeth always sees the full moral consequence of what he is about to do), and his hideous compulsion (he always does it anyway). Lady Macbeth's slow unraveling after her carnivorous beginning is perfectly managed (does she lack her husband's terrible vision and does not see how deep a pit she is digging them, or does she unravel in step with her husband--though quite differently, there is male and female here--or both?). The Thane of Fife's remorse at going to England and leaving his wife and small children to be killed by the monster (his action is inexplicable, but that's Shakespeare, not this production), and his implacable hunger for revenge afterwards (maybe Shakespeare's intention) is heartbreaking. This could be a valuable Macbeth.

But couldn't we please get out of the kitchen a little? Or is it the latrine? My three stars are given to the acting and by some of the concept (which, if not marred, would have deserved more). The staging deserves a great deal less.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modernized Macbeth, October 7, 2010
This review is from: Great Performances: Macbeth (DVD)
This is a modernized version of Macbeth set circa World War II, and much like the Ian McKellen Richard III, it has modern weapons and fascist overtones for the title character. It basically keeps Shakespearean dialog, though in a few instances the dialog is either rushed, or hard to understand over background sounds. That is pretty typical for modernized Shakespeare productions, where the emphasis is more on emotions and ambiance than strictly on the words.

That said, the acting and directing were first rate, and the set choices worked well with the general sense of the production. Patrick Stewart is superb as Macbeth, and Kate Fleetwood is excellent as Lady Macbeth. There was almost a 'rap' cadence to some of the dialog from the witches, but that kind of fit. A few shots seemed to have either archival or faux archival WWII footage, but again that worked. Making Macbeth a fascist dictator was effective and made sense, though some Shakespeare purists might not be happy with that choice.

I saw this on PBS on Great Performances and was quite pleased. Even the 'minor' roles were well done. You can enjoy this without being 'in love' with Shakespeare.
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Great Performances: Macbeth
Great Performances: Macbeth by Rupert Goold (DVD - 2011)
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