Macbeth by William Shakespeare Year 10 GCSE English Coursework: Media
Compare the two films of Macbeth. How do they differ and in what ways are they similar? Which film do you prefer and why?
William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth the play. Many directors in their own style have interpreted this play. I will be comparing two films played by different directors. Different directors make the two films. The two films are based on the same story but the differences occur in the way each director has interpreted the text. The traditional style of Macbeth was done by Roman Polanski and the modern version was done by Penny Woolcock. The traditional version was made in 1979 and the modern BBC vision was made in 1997. The traditional version was made in Scotland and the modern version was set in Ladywood in Birmingham. The actors used in the traditional version were pretty famous and known but in the modern version ordinary people who have little knowledge of acting play the characters. The traditional version was made for a worldwide audience and to be put on cinema. The modern version was made for the BBC to be put directly on TV for England.
Both films tell a story of Macbeth. Three witches prophecy that he will be King and this leads him to kill Duncan the King of Scotland. He becomes more and more involved in murder and terrible deeds. He arranges for his friend Banquo to be murdered because he is afraid that Banquo s after sons will become Kings. Macbeth goes back to the witches who tell him that “no man of woman born will harm him and until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane (his castle) he will not be harmed. Macbeth gets so obsessed with this prophecy that he has Macduff s wife and children murder. Lady Macbeth who encourages Macbeth to kill the King goes mad and dies. Then Macduff comes back to seek revenge for his family and kills Macbeth because Macduff was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”.
The two films were set in very different settings. Polanski s Macbeth was set in the open countryside in Scotland and his castle was more like the setting of the play, which made it more traditional, and there were the mountains and woodlands where the whether created an atmosphere. By putting the music on in the background the weather was cloudy and made it look eirie. The witches where more traditional and lived in the moors. Whereas the BBC version is set in the Ladywood flats and local facilities we used as film sets such as the playgrounds and parks. Then made a very good use of outdoors and indoors. In the BBC version there is not much use of dark because most of it is going on in the light unlike the traditional version where they use light and dark wisely to reflect shadows of the wall. The music in the BBC Macbeth was more modern and the women sing the song “I will survive”. This is ironic because both of them die. In the traditional vision the witches music was out of tune and discordant, this is to make it sound more atmospheric and build up tension. In the traditional Macbeth the weapons were more to suit Shakespeare’s time. They used daggers, swords and armor whereas in the modern version they used knives and guns, which suit our time. The settings of these two films differ because Penny Woolcock thought that the greed and power that was wanted by Macbeth exists in modern society through gangsters. So she found the features and based it on a modern society whereas Roman Polanski thought it would only suit in the traditional form of the play. The budget for Roman Polanski would have been much larger than Penny Woolcock s because Penny Woolcock s vision was made to be put straight onto television and not for the big audience. So there were no special effects unlike in the traditional version where the film was for a worldwide audience and so to make it more interesting special effects were used and more money was spent to hire settings and weapons.
The actors in the two films were very different to each other. The two directors had a very large difference in their budget. Polanski had a lot of spending money so he had the money to pay for some big famous actors and actresses but Penny Woolcock the BBC director had a lower budget and so the actors she used were less well-known and many local residents who weren t actors at all. In Polanski s version he chooses actors and with particular looks because they are more effective and look traditional like we would expect them to be instead of more modern like the BBC version. The traditional version used traditional clothes and there were no black actors in it, but in the BBC version they wear modern clothes and there are many black actors. Polanski s version was made in 1971 and their would not to be many black actors in England anyway and also it could be that Polanski wanted it to be very traditional and in the time it was set there would be no black people in Scotland. A modern production would be more likely to have and black actor s part of the community the modern vision was set in and the board also targets anti-racism to the people watching it on television. The witches is also differed in the two versions, in the traditional version they were old women like we would expect them to be with cauldrons. But in the modern vision they were three children, which is very shocking because children are supposed to be innocent and not evil.
Out of the two types of witches I think the traditional ones are more effective because they are more like we would expect them to be found and looked more like witches.
In Polanski s vision Macbeth dies in a sword fight with Macduff who was not born of a mother’s womb. There is a lot of violence and blood, they both get injured but at the end Macbeth s head gets chopped off and waved around on a stick. But in the BBC version he gets shot and dies very quick. Polanski uses a long ending with lots of violence and injuries and can also pay for the special effect when he Macbeth s head is put on a stick this is because it was for cinema they want to put some extra excitement and have a build up to the ending. Whereas the BBC did not have a large budget and so they did not have a long ending because they would not want to introduce too much violence into the film because it was for direct home viewing.
I think Polanski s version of Macbeth was the best because it was more like what we would expect it to be, very traditional and had good special effects. Whereas the BBC’s version was not very exciting and was not really what I would expect it to be. The director had a different view of projecting her image of the story. She felt that the story of Macbeth could be found in modern society and so she was not afraid of putting her views forward.
I also liked Polanski s version because it had good special effects and was more violent and interesting than the BBC s version.
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