I bought this to have a version I could use in the classroom. There are only minor alterations to the text -- it is more than 90% intact. Stewart is a solid actor, but his Macbeth seems to me to be all noise and not much subtlety. If you are trying to figure out how Macbeth should be played -- as an ambitious politician? as a madman? -- you will not get much help from him. Kate Fleetwood as Lady Macbeth gives the best performance.
The faux-WWII costuming and such are tolerable. I prefer period costumes and sets myself, but this version is bland enough to be an acceptable substitute.
I vastly prefer this to Ian McKellen and Judi Dench, a very dull version. I think this version is the best for classroom use.
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.
If you thought Star Trek Capt. Jean- Luc Picard transformed into Locutus the Borg was scary, Patrick Stewart as a more modern, mature Macbeth is truly terrifying. Co-star Kate Fleetwood is perhaps the most intense Lady Macbeth ever, her well-timed performance climaxing into a crescendo during the sleepwalking scene that is absolutely brilliant, she is so realistically insane. This version of "the Scottish play" is not set in ancient Scotland, but in a bombarded 20th Century nation during wartime. Most of the scenes are shot inside a creepy old building under fire. Interesting touches include the witches being nurses who watch as the soldier flatlines, taking his heart and vanishing in the elevator, and Banquo being murdered aboard a train. My high school seniors were enthralled by the riveting performances and seemed to get more from this version of Macbeth than the Roman Polanski-directed DVD we also watched. The acting ensemble in this PBS Great Performance video is truly top notch, and the ending is particularly chilling. Even if you're not studying Shakespeare, this DVD would make a great scary movie to watch on Halloween!
This version of the Scottish play is set in a slaughterhouse, which is quite in keeping with the imagery. The actress playing Lady Macbeth is stunning. Her 4000 yard stare as she returns from badghing the grrooms with Duncan's blood is all too frightening. Now the bad news. The porter. I do not know or want to kn ow the actor's name who essays the part. Suffice it to say he does everything but chew the bloody daggers in his quest to overact the best of them. He lingers over every word, as though the play should be entitled "THE PORTER". Shame on the director for not sending the poor sod to acting class before allowing him to act with the likes of Stewart. Stewart is good but at times he seems to be savoring his lines too much - Hamlet would say he "mouths them". Don't get me wrong. He's not bad. He's simply not a great Macbeth. You want a Macbeth whose brain is teeming with fear and bloodhsed, try Ian Mckellen's minimalist version.
I teach high school English. Whenever I teach Macbeth, this is my go-to film version. The students love the darkness and intensity, and also enjoy seeing a familiar actor in the lead role. They also simply like that the film is in color -- many students struggle to watch a black and white film. This interpretation is so good, I even watch it when school isn't in session.
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.