In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera


Nov 12, 2011 6:44:00 AM
By BLO Staff

I'm breezily skipping over some of the more
familiar MACBETH movies (which are certainly not to be thus ignored)
Polanski, Welles, what I call the Judi Dench MACBETH (with Ian Mckellen ... directed
by Trevor Nunn ... highly recommended by the way), etc. to get at some
other takes.

it's a cinematic natural--ruthless power struggles, violence, murder,
insatiable ambition, ghosts, madness, a bit of kinky sex. In that direction
MACBETH has translated with apparent ease from royal Scotland to a gang
or criminal empire milieu--from JOE MACBETH (1995) a Ken Hughes film with Paul
Douglas and Ruth Roman to the 2006 Australian MACBETH starring Sam Worthington
(who went on to deal with all those blue people in AVATAR). Set and filmed in Melbourne it
overlays Australian accents on top of Elizabethan blank verse for more
or less maximum incomprehensibility. The expected violence and buckets of blood
plus the seemingly inevitable nudity of the crazed Lady M seems
generic and ultimately tiresome. Australians coping with blank verse,
Shakespeare and a contemporary vision and psychology are on better display with
Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO + JULIET (to my mind a pretty brilliant movie-- but others
disagree violently).

SCOTLAND, PA. is a 2002 film by Billy
Morrissette set in 1970s and revolves around the desperate (and bloody) and
eventually grotesque struggle for not a throne but a hamburger drive--in emporium
in semi-rural Pennsylvania. Broadly satiric often very funny, it is ultimately
dark and disturbing. Containing no verbal Shakespeare to speak of (and a
lot ... a lot ... of profanity) it has a kind of manic charm and, yes, a kind
of Shakespearean vitality and exuberance and madness. You'll probably either love
it ... or hate it ... but you might check it out.

MACBETH of Patrick Stewart (a film made for PBS and the BBC in 2011 from the
stage production seen in New York and London) is for the most
part a intense and gripping (and often truly terrifying) vision of the play but
the Wes Craven--George Romero horror film trappings can get a little
overdone and hence lose their shock. Kate Fleetwood is a neurotic very scary
lady and Patrick Stewart speaks the intricate verse and illuminates the depths (both
repellant and sympathetic) of Macbeth with profound conviction and even beauty.
Set in a kind of mad underground world of a Soviet era dictatorship it is
brutal and effective ... and you'll never be comfortable around nurses again. []

Just for
fun (and after the Stewart film you may need some) check out Hogwarts:

And for the best Shakespearean film of all (at
least in my opinion ... and many others) look at Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD if
you don't know it. MACBETH infiltrates a Japanese samurai culture and
everybody wins (except for Macbeth...but then he gets one of the greatest death
scenes in film) …

--John Conklin

Topics: Boston, General Opera, John Conklin, macbeth

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