Made for television, this version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth contains only two shots, of five and sixty-seven minutes respectively. For critic Jonathan Rosenbaum it marks a turning point in Tarr’s career: "Practically all the important action is staged in the foreground, with the camera following some characters and picking up others as it relentlessly tracks their movements and machinations through fog, torchlight, and dank, grottolike settings. …this video reprises elements from Tarr’s first three features while anticipating the extended, choreographed camera movements and metaphysical demonology of his second three. —Surreal Moviez
Born in 1955, Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr began making amateur films at the age of 16, later working as caretaker at a national House for Culture and Recreation. His amateur work brought him to the attention of the Bela Balazs Studios (named in honor of the Hungarian cinema theorist), which helped fund Tarr’s 1979 feature debut Family Nest, a work of socialist realism clearly influenced by the work of John Cassavettes. The 1981 piece The Outsider and the following year’s The Prefab People continued in much the same vein, but with a 1982 television adaptation of Macbeth, his work began to change dramatically; comprised of only two shots, the first shot (before the main title) was five minutes long, with the second 67 minutes in length. Not only did Tarr’s visual sensibility move from raw close-ups to more abstract mediums and long shots, but also his philosophical sensibility shifted from grim realism to a more metaphysical outlook similar to that of Andrei Tarkovsky. After 1984’s… read more
Beyond its technical merit, this is a fine rendition of Shakespeare's play; a more straightforward reading compared with past cinematic paradigms, and one that’s noticeably abridged, but fairly convincing nonetheless - no doubt with much of the credit flowing directly to the Bard’s pen itself.
While the long takes are impressive and some of the acting is superb, this is clearly a work where Tarr had yet to discover his voice. He removed some of the problems inherent in Shakespeare's play, but at the cost of believable pacing or sophisticated scene changes. Perhaps if I hadn't seen Satantango first...