This essay sample on Macbeth Films provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.
In this essay I will compare two Macbeth films, these films where both based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. One by Roman Polanski the other by Trevor Nunn. These Macbeth films were both very different. The two films were made in the early 1970’s, these directors were both very young and unexperienced in the art of film making at the time, Trevor Nunn had never made a film before in his life.
The young men had come from very different backgrounds. Trevor Nunn (although he was still young) had been a student at Cambridge university and was already the director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which many famous actors and actresses have been members, it is regarded as the most elite theatre company in the world. He was also a member of the English cultural establishment, so he was very well respected.
On the other hand, Roman Polanski is a polish Jew and also an orphan. He had escaped from a German concentration camp when he was just a boy, his dad had made a hole in a wall near the fence of the camp and pushed him through it, and saved his life. Polanski was a classic outsider, he had no formal education. What made him even more of an outsider was the fact that he was he was the biggest producer of low budjet porn films for Playboy Productions at the time.
The reason why he made this film was because of his major ambition to make a top selling cultural film, so when he had enough money he decided to make the film Macbeth. This film was completely independent, this was why it was so unique. He spent all his own hard earned money making it. If the film was unsuccessful he would be in debt for the rest of his life. Trevor Nunn on the other hand was being paid to make his version of the Macbeth film, so he had no intention of making it an enjoyable or exciting film, and also had no intention of making it popular.
The Polanski film was made for watching in the cinema whereas the Nunn version was made for television, both films had the theme of black and white. The Polanski film has the name of the film in white against a black background, the same colour theme was done for Nunn’s version where the room was black, apart from some white foot lights around the room. Also most of Nunn’s actors were wearing black apart from Duncan, Nunn might as well of made the film in black and white.
Nunn’s film shows nothing to the viewer that it has actually started, at the beginning of Nunn’s film we are shown a ariel shot of a completely back circular room, but the camera starts to zoom into the circle, it then changes onto a side shot of the actors they are first standing but then they sit down on some seats that have been put around the room. There are foot lights in front of them, also in a circle. Nunn then decides to zoom into the actors faces one by one and pan round the cast. At this time the viewer has no idea what actors are playing what parts, this one minute adds nothing to the understanding or enjoyment of the film. After seeing this the viewer is likely to either die of boredom or switch channels.
Polanski’s film also doesn’t show any sign that the film has started, a lot of the cinema audience at this point would still be getting to their seats and rustling their food , but whereas Nunn’s version doesn’t hook the audience, Polanski’s does from the very beginning. His film starts with the titles in white against a black background, this is quickly replaced by a landscape shot of a beach at sunrise which has been sped up. At this time the soundtrack is completely silent. The clouds and sand are tinged with red, this gives the impression of violence and blood shed. The only sound at this point is the eerie cries of seagulls, they sound as if they have been put through a synthesizer, this gives an extra edge to the atmosphere.
Nunn’s soundtrack at the beginning of the film is heavy organ music this is quite clever because people normally think of vampire films when they think of organ music, so when the camera focuses on the witches it magnifies their evilness. When the camera focuses on Duncan the organ music serves to emphasize his holiness and goodness. This is a very smart idea because by doing this he very effectively implying the battle between good and evil.
After Polanski’s shot of the sunrise the camera then focuses in mid shot on the three witches, one of the older witches eyes seemed to have been taken out of their sockets. They then start performing a ritual which involves burying objects in the sand. These objects include a hangman’s noose, a freshly severed hand and forearm, so fresh it is still pliable. To an audience of that time it would have been shocking and grotesque. Once the ritual is over the witches then turn their backs on the camera and walk slowly along the beach into the distance. The process of getting the witches from the foreground into the distance has been cut short because of clever editing, so they reach the end of the beach in a matter of seconds. By doing this he avoids Nunn’s mistake, he avoids boring the audience. As the witches reach the horizon they are engulfed by fog which is also tinged red.
Nunn approaches the three witches in a different way, you see the witches in mid shot, two of the older witches are supporting the younger one and they lower her gently to the ground, she is groaning and screaming, the other two are staring intently in the direction of her lap as if she is about to give birth. After a while the camera turns to a close up of Duncan, his hands are joined together in prayer. He is dressed more like a holy man or priest than a king, his robe is of a cream colour in contrast to the witches costumes which are completely black. A very bright light is shining behind his head which makes his hair seem even whiter and makes him appear saint-like.
As the camera cuts between Duncan in prayer and the witches, the witches groans get louder and louder and eventually drowns out Duncan’s prayers, this gives the impression that evil will win over good, this also shows very effectively that the film is about the battle between good and evil. As the witches screams reach a deafening climax they are stopped by a loud clap of thunder, the young witch stops screaming, this gives the impression that she has finished giving birth, and she has given birth to evil.
As the witches are engulfed by fog in Polanski’s version, for a second the soundtrack goes completely silent, and it is only now that Polanski uses the fog to project the titles of the film. A few seconds later the sounds of battle replace the silent soundtrack you can hear the sounds of a general shouting “charge!”, the neighing of horses and the galloping of their hooves, weapons clashing against other weapons or shields and men crying in agony from their wounds. Once the titles had finished the fog clears to reveal a wide angle shot of a battle field, you can see soldiers looting corpses. A soldier walks up to what appears to be a dead enemy, he checks for signs of life by kicking his leg, when the corpse moves the soldier swings the mase he is carrying with full force repeatedly into the soldier lying on the floor. This level of violence is shocking, and is quite unnecessary, but makes excellent entertainment for the audience.
At a closer inspection of the battle field you can see that it is the same beach as where we met the witches, by doing this Polanski avoids the expense of switching locations by tricking the audience into thinking the setting has changed by just changing the soundtrack.
One of the main features that a start of a film needs is to hook the audience and keep their eyes magnetized to the screen. Another thing that needs to be achieved is to introduce the characters and themes well. While Trevor Nunn has cleverly introduced the themes of kingship and power, he fails to accomplish the most important purpose of the start of a film, hooking the viewer. In contrast Polanski has gone out of his way to shock, sicken and revolt his audience with images of violence, thereby making it more realistic, this in affect does hook the audience.
The differing approach of each director is due to their different situations, the production values of each director was very different. Trevor Nunn had been paid up front and did not have to make his film popular or have it approved to a wide audience, he could afford to make his priority to faithfully represent Shakespeare’s original script. Polanski’s situation was the exact opposite he had sunk and invested every single penny he owned and had also taken out massive bank loans to make Macbeth. In order for him to pay back the money the film had to be be on general release and had to be very popular. Having made his film popular he had to make sure it remained so. He did this very effectively because he treated everyone to a very enjoyable time and a fantastic cinematic experience, with a film that has stood the test of time, whereas in my opinion Nunn’s has not.