Macbeth (Roman Polanski 1971)

Polanski’s first film since the terrible murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate and her friends by Charles Manson and his “family” is particularly dark and unforgiving. The slaughter of Lady Macduff and her household seems an attempt to exorcise that chilling chapter in the director’s already violent life.

Finch as Macbeth undergoes a turgid demise from “Worthy Thane” to “Dwarfish thief” sucking the life from all around him as his regicide consumes his soul with murder upon murder.

Polanski seems to heap his own then understandably black moods on Finch’s characterization before having Macduff cleave his head from his shoulders, realised by an amazing but disconcerting point of view shot from the dying Macbeth.

Perhaps even more intriguing is Polanski’s radical departure from Shakespeare’s original text. At the end of the film Malcom’s brother Donalbain is seen entering the Witches’ lair presumably for a dread counsel with the Weird Sisters. This promises an infinite cycle of usurpers locked in a never ending spiral of violence.

One can only speculate if Macbeth’s suffering is a metaphor for the director’s own torment or the hell in which he would like to have placed Manson. Either way Macbeth is an incredible piece of work born out of a real life tragedy.

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