Macbeth on the Estate (2007)
Macbeth on the estate is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, directed by Penny Woolcock. It is set in Birmingham’s Ladywood estate instead of Scotland, and the main characters are all members of street gangs; they’re drug dealers and criminals instead of Scottish nobility. Another interesting change is that the weird sisters are children (two of whom are boys).
Modern interpretations of Shakespeare are usually hit or miss for me. I either thoroughly enjoy the modern edits or hate the way the changes affect the story. This adaptation left me feeling unsatisfied, but I didn’t hate it. I guess I’m just not a big fan.
There are some things that I definitely enjoyed. I love that the weird siblings are children. It took their scenes to a different level of weird that I would have never thought possible. In my opinion, children always walk the line of cute and creepy in movies and this adaptation took advantage of that. The weird siblings in this movie look normal (no beards L) and dress in average clothes, but the way they deliver their lines and the looks they give to Macbeth really bring them to the scary side of the fence.
I also really like the way the movie played up Lady Macbeth’s stress over the loss of her child. Her first scene in the nursery really allows the audience to feel her sadness, and the scene when she goes crazy and tucks in her invisible child is heartbreaking. I also think it is interesting that this adaptation has Lady Macbeth attempt to warn Lady Macduff of Macbeth’s arrival. My only problem with these added details is that they don’t really add to the overall storyline. I think it would have been better to keep some of the speeches that were cut down in favor of these extra scenes with Lady Macbeth.
I like the idea that they are in a big gang, but I also think this angle takes away from the likeability of Macbeth as a character. In this version, his prize isn’t a big enough one to justify his actions. He isn’t killing to be the king of a country with all the riches that come with that; he becomes a murderer to be the ruler of a gang and it’s never said what perks come with that other than a ring. In this context his murders seem pointless.
My biggest critique of the movie is that it ignores the third warning of the weird sisters to Macbeth. Burnham Wood never comes to Dunsinane Hill, or if it does, it isn’t showed. It may have been mentioned in passing and I missed it. In which case, it clearly wasn’t given enough attention.
I also thought the entire end is anticlimactic. Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness is so short that it’s barely believable. When she is found dead, it doesn’t immediately make sense that she killed herself. There is only one short scene where she seems to have lost her sanity. In the context of what is revealed in this movie, it seems more likely that she was murdered than she committed suicide. Additionally, in the end there isn’t even a struggle; Macduff just walks up and says he wasn’t born of woman and shoots him. What kind of ending is that?! Simply put, it let me down. I expected something a little more flashy and exciting, especially since they are supposed to be in a gang. Why make the changes if they weren’t going to take advantage of them? (J. Perez, October 2013)
dir. Rupert Goold
The moment that the film began and I saw the amazingly awesome way that the three witches were portrayed, I knew I had to write my review on it. This version of Macbeth, directed by Rupert Goold, was filmed for television in 2009 and stars Patrick Stewart as Macbeth. Given Patrick Stewart and the fantastic witches, there was no way in my eyes that this film could go wrong.
The setting is different than the original play since it is a modern take. It opens with footage of war and then switches to the inside of a war hospital, creating a dark and uneasy tone. The uneasiness, for me, came about when the dying soldier was saying his last words, or rather his last speech, and would stop every now and again to laugh with the generals and other officials about nothing really. This confused me because I felt like it was a serious and rather bleak moment that did not evoke a reason to laugh. After I let go of some of that seriousness, the witches came, killed him, and then ripped his heart out in a spectacularly gruesome display and I went right back to my previous demeanor. Immediately I was experiencing a mixture of emotion and felt uncertain, which I think was absolutely essential seeing as how Macbeth is a dreary and completely unstable play in the way that the audience does not want to fully trust anything or anyone. Thus, the underlying theme of uncertainty and doubt is emphasized through the opening scene and I adored it.
I also really liked the way that Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood played Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Stewart had almost a constant look of confusion mixed with fear and passion all at once which I felt that Macbeth possessed in the play. Macbeth repeatedly reflects on his actions and wonders if he is doing the right thing while continuing forward in his quest to gain and then keep the throne. He experiences a plethora of emotion but always comes back to being unsure of himself which I think Stewart depicted rather well. Fleetwood, however, stood out to me more with her role as Lady Macbeth, especially in the scene in which she sleepwalks and the famous “out, damned spot” line is spoken. It is here that Lady Macbeth’s lack of sanity as well as overwhelming guilt is evident and Fleetwood conveys this through not only the passion behind her lines but also her body language. While she is attempting to wash the ever-present blood off of her hands, I noticed that her eyes were no longer quite as wide and that she bites and moves her tongue about as if completely enveloped in the washing of her hands and I thought those details were a brilliant addition. In the Roman Polanski version I watched a little while back, I remember Lady Macbeth seeming a bit dull because of her lack of emotion in this scene, so I was happily surprised to see such passion being expressed.
While I loved the majority of the characters, Goold’s interpretation of the three witches was, by far, my favorite thing about this adaptation and they were my favorite characters. They were enchanting and terrifying at the same time and made you want to listen to them and then run as fast as you possibly could away from them. They were so interesting and eerie and I think that that was the perfect way to portray them because that is how they come off in the play. The entirety of this adaptation is just outstanding to me and I highly recommend watching this unique take on Macbeth. (H. Stapleton, September, 2013)