Macbeth (1971)

macbeth poster 1971 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Strong adaptation

Might be too gruesome for many, the Polanski problem

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Macbeth

Studio:  Caliban Films

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 20, 1971 (US)/February 2, 1972 (UK)

MPAA Rating:  R

macbeth witches

Want to screw with some guys heads?

Macbeth (Jon Finch) and his friend Banquo (Martin Shaw) encounter a group of witches that predict a glorious future for both men.  With dreams of being king, Macbeth and his wife (Francesca Annis) realize that the future can only be attained through action…and murder.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do the unthinkable, and Macbeth learns that the witches’ prediction might be his destiny or a horror of a future he cannot escape!

Directed by Roman Polanski, Macbeth is an adaptation of the William Shakespeare tragedy.  The film was the first film following the murder of Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate on August 9, 1969 and faced criticism due to the violence and nudity as a result.  The movie bombed at the box office, but has gained more critical acclaim since its release.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #726).

Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  It is full of prophecies, witches, spirits, and unlike many of his other tragedies, there isn’t really a comic relief character…it’s just dark.  This adaptation of Macbeth is solid and takes the darkness and runs with it.

macbeth jon finch francesca annis

You need a tough stain out, Shout it out!

The movie essentially presents the story, but by bringing a play to the screen, it isn’t confined by a stage set.  The movie makes the play feel bigger and the magnitude of Macbeth’s actions can be seen in the land he usurps and his viciousness.  He kills his king, and he and his wife pay the price for their disloyalty.  It also raises the question of prophecy versus self-fulfilling prophecy…would Macbeth have still become king somehow if he hadn’t listened to the witches?

Jon Finch and Francesca Annis make good a good Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  Generally, the roles were taken by veteran actors, but it doesn’t make much sense that the characters would be old.  If someone is going to take the throne and wants to control it a long time, it would beg to reason that they would be young and potentially able to sire a lineage.

macbeth beheaded jon finch

Well, this didn’t go how I planned…

The movie also looks great.  From the creepy witches to the slaughtering of Macbeth’s enemies, the movie earns its R-Rating for a story that should be rated R.  It’s a violent action, and the action has violent results.

Macbeth is great, but it is tainted by the Polanski problem.  Polanski is a great filmmaker, but his crime in the past (of which he admitted to), was despicable…so can you enjoy his work and are you a bad person if you can ignore the crime?  That’s up to the individual viewer, and it will be interesting to see how Polanski’s work is viewed in another ten years or fifty years as times change.

Related Links:

Macbeth (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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