- Shakespeare on Screen: “Macbeth.” ed. by Sarah Hatchuel, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, and Victoria Bladen, and: Screen Adaptations: Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The Relationship between Text and Film by Samuel Crowl
Like the earlier volume on Hamlet in this series, the breadth of Shakespeare on Screen: Macbeth makes it a welcome addition not only to the holdings of the institutional library but also to the collection of the individual reader. Much recent work on Shakespeare and film has considered the implications of global Shakespeares, and this volume intensifies that approach, providing in-depth explorations of established films like Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) and of films gaining critical ground like Alexander Abela’s Makibefo (1999). Many of the volume’s twenty-one essays are copiously illustrated with screen shots, which prove particularly helpful for the more obscure films addressed. Few of the articles focus solely on film versions of Macbeth in English, and many invoke more than one non-Anglophone production.
Dominique Goy-Blanquet’s “Phantom of the Cinema: Macbeth’s Ghosts in the Flesh,” for example, studies how six different filmmakers in five different countries have dealt with the portrayal of Banquo’s ghost. Attending to films by Welles, Kurosawa, Polanski, Nunn, Abela, and Bhardwaj, Goy-Blanquet explores her claim that “how a filmmaker deals with his ghosts will provide a key to his reading of the play and his interpretation of the world it is set in” (21). While recognizing that not all of these productions draw equally from Shakespeare, she argues that they all contribute to a commentary on the play as well as a reading of their various cultural contexts.
Several other essays also deal with the supernatural. Essays by Warren Chernaik, Pierre Kapitaniak, Susan Gushee O’Malley, and Victoria Bladen address the subtle ramifications of different portrayals of the witches. For Chernaik, the more prominent the witches, the less control Macbeth has over his fate: Welles and Polanski tend to emphasize the witches and their power while Kurosawa and Nunn keep them in a more marginalized and less influential position. Kapitaniak traces a move away from the stereotypically ugly and elderly witches toward more attractive, younger witches, culminating in the witches in Geoffrey Wright’s 2006 film. O’Malley provides a reading of Rupert Goold’s 2011 film version of Macbeth that underscores the production’s deployment of the conventions of modern horror [End Page 244] films. Bladen considers the spatial locations with which filmmakers have provided their witches, concluding that the liminal space often afforded the witches can have an interesting and significant interplay with more central spaces in films—even, as in the case of Wright’s Macbeth, invading those central spaces.
In addition to essays bringing multiple versions of Macbeth together, several concentrate their efforts on a single film. Pascale Drouet’s “‘Look how our partner’s rapt’: Externalizing Rapture in Orson Welles’s Macbeth (1948, 1950)” is particularly adept at demonstrating how Welles’s cinematographic choices are deeply revelatory of his Macbeth’s intense isolation. In “Symbolic and Thematic Impoverishment in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth,” Charles R. Forker highlights the film’s settings, its use of crown and chain imagery, and its conflation of human and animal to argue that Polanski’s dark vision of the play “greatly diminishes its depth, range, and tragic effect” (136). Boika Sokolova’s essay on Goold’s Macbeth examines the film’s particular indebtedness to several classic films and demonstrates the instability of the world the film creates, particularly at film’s end: “By gesturing to other filmmakers, [Goold] has created a work which is postmodern, challenging stable readings, inherently subversive and political” (168).
Adele Seeff’s “Shakespeare in Mzansi” (Mzansi is a Zulu word for “south”) analyzes two versions of...