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Orson Welles' unique take on Shakespeare's classic tragedy.
Orson Welles' unique take on Shakespeare's classic tragedy.
Film #35 of Project 40
”Life ... is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Hamlet wasn’t the only cinematic adaptation of a famous William Shakespeare play in 1948 and while Laurence Olivier’s version pleased the critics and won the major Academy Awards of the year the Orson Welles’ more melancholic and more penetrating adaptation didn’t get much attention and somehow lost the initial battle to its more popular sister. The general mood and atmosphere of Macbeth, like any other Shakespeare tragedy, is gloomy and sorrowful but with the high contrast, shadowy and somewhat mournful visual style of Welles the story of Macbeth and his notorious wife becomes even more tragic. Low-angle shots along…
My previous viewing of this on DVD on a tiny tube television prevented me from appreciating it as much as I did today. I've always thought of Welles' Othello as Shakespeare Noir, and now I see Macbeth as his Shakespeare Expressionist Horror. It looks more like James Whale's Frankenstein than your average, or even above average, Shakespeare adaptation. As Hannah noted on Twitter, the visual motif in Othello is one of traps and enclosures, while here it is wide open nightmare landscapes, shadows and fog. The rolling mist in the "tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy forms a visual rhyme with the smoke from the chimney in Citizen Kane as Rosebud burns. The search for meaning in identity and actions proves elusive,…
What better movie to act as a come-down from a weekend of noir fever than one based on the original noir? Welles (also playing the lead and sporting some Jack Kirby facial hair) seems to dig the connection too, since he fills the movie with a lot of very sharp shadows covering an almost otherwordly environs - this is a land so detached from modern conveniences that they couldn't even make a comfortable crown.
Deep shadows, smoke, witches, and Welles doing Shakespeare. What more could I want?
As I was watching this, I kept thinking of Welles' Othello. That film is dominated by traps, prisons, enclosures, with objects almost always in the foreground. This one, on the other hand, is barren. The characters have nowhere to hide, except further into the darkness and the fog. In his intro, Tommy pointed out the political frustrations facing Welles at the time, calling it Welles' "punk rock" film, and it's absolutely evident in the paranoia and rage onscreen. Made on the cheap with borrowed materials and full of political and artistic rage, the punk rock analogy fits. Just add a few safety pins to Macduff's cloak.
I don't know if I can ever think of a Shakespeare adaptation as a 100% bona fide classic, particularly in the somewhat stodgy pre-1960's era, but this one comes dang near close. This is mostly thanks to Orson Welles' brilliant feel for editing, camerawork, and staging. Welles realized that the audience was there to see A MOVIE, not just a filmed play, and he gives you one hell of a movie. Long tracking shots and creepy angles heighten the encroaching and claustrophobic horror of the proceedings, while sleight-of-hand camera tricks fool your eyes and scatter your brain. Also pretty wild that this is Jeanette Nolan's first film, seeing as how she might be the most fatale-y femme fatale of all time.
One of the earliest Shakespeare works to be brought to the big screen, Welles’ style is all over this one. Between the insane sets and stellar long takes, it’s clear he had to take lots of creative liberty with the original script. I would argue that this is some of Welles best acting alongside Jeanette Nolan as his counterpart. However, Shakespeare’s apparent magnificent use of words never fails to get wasted on an unappreciative sack like me - so it falls low.
Read my thoughts on all of Orson Welles' films at my blog!
orson's macbeth possesses grace and an understanding of characters that the most recent macbeth completely failed to get at. going for a misty howling wind horror vibe that kurosawa emulated a few years later, this macbeth is a chamber piece set in an echoing castle carved out of stone and rock. where the 2015 othello attempted epic set piece battle scenes by choreographing them in slow motion, orson conversely rushes through the horror and gore in exchange for mood and atmosphere. this does not make the movie any less disturbing. there are two creative solutions to the problem of showing beheadings, and infanticide is made horrendous not by the child's lifeless body but a timely zoom on the murderer's engorged…
Maestoso, eccessivo, tonitruante, tellurico, il Macbeth di Orson Welles trasmette tutta la sua essenza di bramosia, ambizione e sete di potere. E riempe praticamente da solo una scenografia scarnissima, esaltata dalla fotografia tipicamente espressionista.
The visuals take center stage in this adaptation, as the familiar tale of ambition run amok transpires on jagged, theatrical sets with actors swallowed by overpowering costumes. Elements of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible are apparent. It's not necessarily great Shakespeare, but it's a terrific, stylish work of cinema and deserves more attention than it receives among Welles' films.
With my viewing today of 1948's Macbeth, I have now finished off Orson Welles filmography (alright, I have yet to see Filming Othello, but I do like to consider Welles' major films now all under my belt). Welles' vision for one of Shakespeare's most famous plays is bold and theatrical, a heightened chiaroscuro-inspired take on the material that plays up some of Welles' signature themes (artifice vs. reality, one man vs. the system, etc.) through his typical stylistic flourishes, including excessively extravagant long takes and use of deep focus.
This is a fairly loose adaptation of the play but is no less compelling, presenting a gloomy, mostly artificial world that perfectly compliments the depraved story and exotic Scottish setting. Some…
(107-minute version) While most films could use some trimming down, this one needs the opposite. A lot of the transitions feel simply too rushed, especially compared to the steady and introspective performances.
Orson Welles set out to prove that a Shakespeare film could be cheap, cinematic and popular - he succeeded in his first two ambitions, but, sadly, Macbeth failed to be popular. As so often with Welles's films, the story behind Macbeth is almost as much fun as the film. As a sort of rehearsal, Welles staged the play at the Utah Centennial Festival and then moved his cast to Los Angeles for further rehearsals; Republic Studios had agreed to back the project, but it had to be filmed in three weeks - Welles succeeded in doing this, but Republic was most famous for its B Movie Westerns and this became a point of derision for Welles's many detractors; Welles experimented…
April 2017 Scavenger Hunt (#25) Task 27: Any two films with the same title (#1).
Look at me, being completely uncreative and picking two Shakespeare adaptations for this challenge. Boo! What can I say? I love Big Willy. Also, I was a bit bummed I didn't make time to watch any additional Orson Welles movies for his Film School Dropouts Week.
It's ... okay. Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and at this point my benchmarks for greatest performances (Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in the 1979 filmed version of their stage show -- they pull off the amazing feat of making you want to watch them have sex) and greatest visual representation…
Grim, stark and nightmarish.
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Originally posted by Co.Create: www.fastcocreate.com/1679472/martin-scorseses-film-school-the-85-films-you-need-to-see-to-know-anything-about-film
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