Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Orson Welles' Macbeth: twisting Shakespeare about and echoing Eisenstein

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Caught Orson Welles' Macbeth yesterday. This was the VHS print of the 45th anniversary release, which restores the original Scottish soundtrack as well as 20+ minutes originally chopped out by the studios. I also had The Oxford Shakespeare edition of Macbeth complete with footnotes, which meant that I could (a) follow the soundtrack (as with most Welles' cheapies, the dialogue is not too clear, and the Scottish accent makes it worse) (b) understand the flip flops that OW kept performing with the script. Shakespeare purists might well discount this adaptation for its brevity and liberties (note the additional character of a priest, the omission of several scenes, the changes in assigned dialogue, the temporal mixing of asides and monologues, the more omniscient nature of Welles' Macbeth), and one may be tempted to side with them, because this is one of Shakespeare's shorter plays. However, this film ultimately works a great exercise in merging theatre and movie mise-en-scène, and also (at some level) a horror film, as OW continues to play around with his favourite themes. Lots of labyrinthine Kafkaesque moments, allusions (at least so far as I could see) to Eisenstein (especially Ivan the Terrible Part I). Once again, Welles does not disappoint. What I need now is the shooting script.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.