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Roman Polanski’s film of ‘Macbeth’ and the film of Trevor Nunn’s RSC production of ‘Macbeth’

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 965
  • Category: Macbeth

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Act 1 scene 1 of Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’ opens with the three unnatural beings of the play, the witches. The opening of Shakespeare’s play is set on a baron heath quiet and deserted the perfect place for weird happenings especially with the claps of thunder in the background. This omits an eerie atmosphere and leaves you in no doubt about the nature of the play. It’s going to contain ‘toil and trouble’ murder and pain as blood is a key symbol in this play. Roman Polanski and Trevor Nunn set their plays in very different ways and though each of the openings contains the same speech the characterisation differs.

The establishing shots for each film are at a variance. Polanski’s is a desolate beach at sunrise, the blood red sky reflecting off the rippled sand peacefully. The red sky signifies the bloodshed in the play. After the red sky has dissolved, the day broadens. Calm falls upon the vast expanse of land, this false sense of security is short – lived. The next cut is an extreme close up (ECU)of the stick drawing the circle in the sand . Polanski focuses upon their actions more than the witches themselves .

I think this is because it shows their deadly and destructive side , and their unnatural behaviour when burying the hand . In comparison Nunn’s starts with all the characters standing linked together in a circle, with light cascading over them . It is all lit with stage lightening which differs from Polanski’s who was in natural light At first it is difficult to distinguish who these people are , but in time all becomes clear . The camera pans,(moving the camera from right to left or left to right )from one character to another .

Some of the characters are desaturated in green light and others in white like Duncan . This is because he is seen as godly. This is because in Shakespeare’s era people believed that kings were chosen by god himself so anything disloyal against the king was treacherous against god. This is why Duncan is seen praying in Nunn’s production. After this the witches are shown in dimmed light . There is a large period of time in which the camera’s are focussed on the witches(close up shot) .

This shows their uncontrollable behaviour and a stereotypical portrait of witches , as it shows them being possessed by something bigger than themselves the ,devil. This makes the audience anxious about what maybe about to happen and they should be. Circles play a big part in both productions;. Circles are a symbol of magic, but they also signify unity a never ending evil. Both the films are set in different places Polanski’s set on location , a beach, and Nunn’s set on a stage this means the music and sound affects differ .

Romans film has the least amount of sound out of the two films however uses the sounds in the natural surroundings . The beach makes its own music, the waves gently lapping onto the shore , the seagulls squawking whilst flying through the air the whistle of the wind sweeping across the vast landscape . Nunn’s uses music instead of natural sound he makes dramatic impact with a church organ . This creates an eerie atmosphere . This music changes between each character , when on Duncan a lighter tune is head when focusing on the witches a deep and dramatic sound is produced.

In both films the famous words are spoken ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’. After this he witches loose control, an ear piercing scream protrudes out of their mouths . This disrupts everything that came before it . This shows that Nunn’s intentions are to create an atmosphere of fear. Polanski creates the same atmosphere, but does this in the opposite way, with the abstinence of the uncontrolled behaviour. Trevor Nunn’s characters are uncontrollable and act more possessed. They are dependent on one another; they seem to rely on their partners and would maybe be lost without them.

They are scruffy as you would expect but to a further extent. They have ridiculous costumes which are very stereotypical for witches. On the other hand Polanski’s witches are more controlled and less dependent on each other. They are poorly dressed as you would expect but are dressed as you would not expect. They appear calm and collected whilst chanting and after the evil ends they leave on separate paths waiting till they meet again for more evil happenings. Both of the openings are set and directed in different ways. They are both very effective for different reasons.

Roman Polanski’s is very effective as its use of simple ness and less are more attitudes creating an uneasy sense of calm to the audience. Also how he focuses on the actions of his subjects more than on themselves. This is unusual and how they are calm and normal, unlike the stereotypical view of witches. Trevor Nunn’s are the total opposite an uncontrollable group which create an atmosphere of panic and fear. They are extremely stereotypical, scraggy hags which are full of evil greater than themselves and dependent on each other.

I prefer Roman’s use of sound in his production as it is understated yet powerful, however find Trevor’s use of lighting and colour the more striking out of the two. There are similarities in the vision of the two directors they both wish to create an air of mystery and fear but the ways in which they do this are different. There are many key differences like setting, one if filmed on location the other on the stage, another is the type of characters, and one controlled the other the opposite. I prefer Polanski’s version even though is far from the way that Shakespeare intended.

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