For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.
Critics reviews
Macbeth
Roman Polanski United States, 1971
The key, strangely enough for this supernatural and highly stylised tale, is the realism, the ability to create a convincing (and extremely dark) world in which these events take place. The result is an experience in which Shakespeare’s poetic language and Polanski’s grounded imagery create a tension that propels the familiar narrative forward, producing continuous sequences in which the oft-quoted language is given a fresh perspective.
September 14, 2016
Read full article
Francesca Annis’s Lady Macbeth—another doomed woman for Polanski’s roster—and the titular bastard himself (Jon Finch, whose physical performance is rare for Shakespeare) are second fiddle to the creeping mood, upheld by unnverving strings and nightmarish chimeras. That it is all shot with enormous beauty makes the experience all the more unsettling. Thick as the film is with fog and filthy air, you can almost taste the corrupt power couple’s ambition like a cauldron-born potion.
January 20, 2016
Read full article
[Polanski’s] take on the Scottish play is bloody, grimy, and reeks of all manner of bodily effusion. If it could smell, it would smell bad. It’s all the more impressive that Polanski’s Macbeth is equally redolent with atmosphere and troubled emotions: guilt, paranoia, bloodthirst. It’s among the earthiest of movie Macbeths.
January 13, 2016
Read full article
Shakespeare’s language, which in other attempts to bring his work to the screen has sometimes overmatched the audience’s ability to take it in, flows effortlessly in this Macbeth, limpid as a mountain stream. The brutal fact, which Polanski and Tynan grasped, is that this language, rich in metaphor and imagery, doesn’t really need anything that cinematic art can bring to it; if you read Macbeth, or watch a good stage production, the movie makes itself, in your mind.
September 24, 2014
Read full article
One of Polanski and Tynan’s most interesting choices—significant enough that it gets its own section on the film’s Wikipedia page—is the elevation of the minor character Ross into a figure of Machiavellian cunning and intrigue… This revision is more of a fascinating curiosity than anything else—it doesn’t alter the play’s meaning in any material way (as a brief, invented final scene does)—but it shows how a great filmmaker can subtly change even the wordiest material in terms of images.
September 24, 2014
Read full article
Technically speaking, the director operates at his usual level of quality, striking a balance between post-New Wave roughness and theatrically lit, stably mounted master compositions. Polanski can employ dolly shots like no other, and his curving track pans around the weird sisters’ gathering near the start, or of Lady Macduff’s chambers before Macbeth’s men arrive, are thoroughly unsettling by dint of their unnaturally smooth motion and probing invasiveness.
September 21, 2014
Read full article
Sharon Tate’s murder looms inescapably on the screen — the smoky sabbath is an unholy dilation of the wrinkled Satan-worshippers of Rosemary’s Baby, there’s no missing the Mansonite whiff of the raid on Macduff’s (Terence Bayler) clan.
December 09, 2009
Read full article
[It] stands as one of the most visually arresting and dramatically gripping adaptations of Shakespeare ever filmed, and one that can be ranked alongside Orson Welles’ 1948 film and Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation (filmed as Kumonosu jô/Throne of Blood) from 1957. However, Polanski’s Macbeth is also a key “Roman Polanski Film”, both because of its alleged links to Polanski’s life at the time of production, and in terms of the director’s recurring themes and ideas that are on display.
March 01, 2008
Read full article
The film’s script (by critic Kenneth Tynan and Polanski himself) is a faithful, but smartly cinematic reading of Shakespeare’s most concise play, consolidating scenes and characters and utilizing an array of photographic and editing tricks. But the film’s most unusual innovation is its direct depiction of the murder of Duncan, which occurs offstage in the play, but is here portrayed from Macbeth’s point of view in all its bloody detail.
October 30, 2004
Read full article
it’s unfair to be too critical: the director suffered shattering personal tragedy just before filming when his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson’s “family” during the notorious ‘Tate-LoBianca’ killings of 1969. Knowing this biographical information makes certain scenes in Macbeth- especially the sequence in which the wife, children and servants of Macduff (Terence Bayler) are slaughtered – very difficult to watch.
March 23, 2004
Read full article
The slaughter of Lady Macduff and her children is here given extraordinary weight-as are all other usually offstage killings ordered by Macbeth. Polanski provocatively envisioned the Macbeths as a hot young couple (Jon Finch and Francesca Annis) but, killer hippies aside, he has no particular gift for spectacle. The film’s bear-baiting, barnyard pageantry is less convincing than its clammy locations.
November 09, 1999
Read full article
The Roman Polanski version (1971), strong on youth, beauty, and inevitable gore. The wide-screen visuals swamp the dialogue, and the thematics have been turned inside out—but that’s what movie adaptations ought to do. It’s not major Polanski, but neither is it a meeting of the Great Books Club.
January 01, 1980
Read full article
The relative weakness is that Polanski’s evident desire to elicit understated, naturalistic performances from his cast also underplays the poetry of the play, which as a result never quite spirals into dark, uncontrollable nightmare as the Welles version (for all its faults) does.
February 01, 1972
Read full article