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on March 22, 2006
Let me start by telling you what I don't like about this production. The costuming is annoying - a mixture of styles for no reason that is clear to me and to no particular effect. And that's it. Everything else about this production works beautifully.

Ian McKellan and Judy Dench are absolutely magnificent. Their slide into evil is absolutely convincing, the anguish it causes them is completely natural. All the ambition and cruelty that we expect are there, mingled with a tenderness and regret that are often missed by lesser actors. The supporting cast is all good, though not uniformly so; some are excellent, some merely good.

The witches are creepy in a repellant rather than a scary way. The supernatural elements of the play aren't played out with special effects, but rather take place in the minds of the characters. I think that works well - hags over cauldrons and gauze wearing ghosts get pretty cliched. Here the boundary between supernatural and madness is left completely blurred.

I expected the set design to be a negative - I'm not fond of dark and mostly empty sets. At first it bothered me, but later I found that I was focusing entirely on the actors and completely failing to notice the absence of detailed background. The darkness fits the mood of the play and makes everything that is there on stage stand out. The sets may be initially off-putting, but I think they're a wise and artistically sound approach.

In spite of the senseless costume design, this is a solid five.
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on December 11, 2012
This stripped down, stripped absolutely bare of everything except for the actors costumes it seems, with a backdrop seemingly darkness itself and nothing else, is an amazing production. Everything is about the actors and the language and of course the story. This to me is the best way to do Shakespeare, or at least it worked for Macbeth and it could work for Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Corialanus, Timon of Athens, Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, basically all of the tragedies. For the history plays and obviously the comedies, this atmospheric and stripped bare style wouldn't really work. But here it most definitely does. Ian McKellen and Judi Dench are absolutely mind-blowingly good.
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on June 29, 2015
This 1978 version is my favorite performance of Macbeth. The Royal Shakespeare Company with McKellen and Dench are, as usual, terrific. As Lady Macbeth Dench gives a stirring performance as the villain who started it all ! The extra features offered on this DVD version is a valuable addition. Particularly the Explaination of the play with McKellen. Very helpful for a first timer to follow the story.
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on July 23, 2011
At first I was a little reserved at this spartan rendition of MacBeth. Minimum costumes, props, and no scenery. The weight of the play rested on the actor's ability to draw you into their world. Some lines reversed, some omitted altogether. Missed the Siward, young and old, characters; thought that old Siward's reference to hurts before was inspiring and that the young Siward's death helped place MacBeth in an invincible state of mind that proved the pinnacle of his hubris. But, the part was a bit of a distraction for the central theme to move forward to its climax, and therefore understandable.
Excellent performances from all. This is the one to watch over and over again.
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on May 22, 2009
I saw this production onstage in London in the warehouse where it was produced by Trevor Nunn in the 1970's. Nunn had been trying for years to get "Macbeth" right, but kept missing the mark till this one. It is shattering. Once you've experienced Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth, none other will ever do. This petite woman's enormous power is all-encompassing, and Ian McKellan is equally fine in the title role. All the supporting players are stunning as this was a true ensemble production, and many have gone on to have major film careers. If you want a Macbeth, this is THE one to get.
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on October 16, 2015
Seller was very prompt..CD well packaged.
Macbeth production is outstanding....Dench and McKellen portray the lustful and power hungry couple of all times.
All of the cast members are wonderful and with some members playing dual roles you can really appreciate the repertory background of so many of the British actors we admire.
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on April 9, 2008
First off, I just have to say how this particular production of one man's imperial hubris and revealed lust for power is just extraordinarily dynamic to watch during presidential campaign season. Minimalist right down to the film's ending, such things as widely seen and read as Macbeth -- "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" -- ought to be well understood throughout most if not all of our worldwide community, one would think, by now?

Two major themes arise while seeing any production of Macbeth: blind ambition and lust for power. But, by the end of this tightly and exquisitely produced production, Act I, scene iv, (about a half-hour or so into this film) just after Macbeth eyes the crown as it is being elevated from the King's head, he anxiously mutters, "Stars hide your fires, let not light see my deep and black desires...", you know what the rest of this play will be about but stay rapt with fascination, nonetheless.

Great actors and directors are necessary to pull off Shakespeare, well. The names Trevor Nunn, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench should pretty well sell this film, outright, along with the several other terrific Shakespearean actors. Add the fact this is a black-box production, which of course relies heavily upon the actors' imaginations, and this is perhaps the most effective rendition of this great play you will ever see. The scene between Macduff and Malcolm's soul-searching/testing the characteristics of a hero versus a villain, is terrific. Ian McKellen's Omega-depiction of Macbeth, throughout the telling, is simply dynamite (especially, how the harrowing dagger soliloquy is shot -- particularly, how he "moves ... like a ghost"). Judi Dench is simply terrifying as Lady Macbeth. The dvd's special features with Ian McKellen are very good and informative. He discusses some of the realities toward which some of the aforemnetioned actors' performances and the play relate, his different styles, among other interesting tidbits. And, again, this film has a better and more thought-provoking ending than the play, I think, as it was written.

Looking at the events that unravel after encountering the three witches and realizing how he had been bewitched into temptation to "become King, hereafter", he would then proceed to talk himself out of what he haphazardly refers to as "the bloody business" (committing regicide and treason); then, he gets talked back into reconsidering it, and agrees to go ahead with it after all. Then, ultimately, he has to re-convince himself, outside of the King's chamber (the 'dagger' soliloquy). If he had been able to actually stop and listen to himself, to how he is absolutely not cut out to overcome the potential obstacles that would knowingly arise within his conscience -- for he had always been bound by virtue to King, country, honor, duty, and valiance as a soldier, friend, and general (as well as God-fearing) -- and, thereby never a murderer of these things. These obstacles were cryptically foretold, had arisen, and were all the while denied.
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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2011
When I first saw this version of 'the scottish play' I was expecting a 'movie' movie. As in, scenery, costumes, and one or two special effects. I was also expecting excellent performances from Judy Dench and Ian McKellan. In the first regard, I was very disapointed; in the second, I was not. The acting is very good from all the actors and excellent from Dench and McKellan. However, there are no costume changes (in fact, very few actual costumes). This is supposed to let the audience pay attention to only the actors, which i think would have work had they all been wearing simple black and white. However, Prince Malcon wore one of those awful seventies knit sweaters, and many of the thanes wore what looked like clothes from the victorian era, which was very distracting. There is no scenery just a lot of smoke on the stage. There are almost no props. Later I learned that this movie is based on a stage production. The minimalist effect is interesting (except for the poor costumes), and indeed I enjoyed the movie but was let down because I didn't expect what I got. So if you're looking for a unique film expierience, watch this, but try another version for a traditional movie. Finally, if you enjoy the works of McKellen and Dench do watch it because it's amazing watching them work together esp. since they are so much younger.
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on January 10, 2018
Amazing performance.
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on January 19, 2016
Judi Dench is the best Lady MacBeth ever, and Ian McKellen is his usual fearless self, willing to do anything to make the character real and give him impact--in this case, drooling all over himself as Banquo's ghost drives him mad.
When I first reviewed this, I thought, and wrote, that the disc had something wrong with it. However, it now seems that the problem was with my machine.
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