Friday, May 26, 2023


 "The art of film can only really exist through a highly organized betrayal of reality." 
François Truffaut  

For reasons obvious, the years 2020 and 2021 are largely a blur to me. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown of 2020 turned time into a literal ontological abstraction; with yesterdays feeling as remote and irretrievable as dreams, tomorrows never actually seeming to arrive at all. Only the tail-end of 2021 stands out in my mind. And that's chiefly because I associate it with those snail-pace early days of life in Los Angeles stumbling towards a return to something resembling "normalcy." And not a minute too soon. 
For the close of 2021 is also burned into my mind as the days when the American populace—vacillating between being independently suicidal or societally homicidal over having to endure even one second more of inconvenience—seemed hell-bent on making real the allegorical nightmares of Goldman's Lord of the Flies (1963) and Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel (1962). 
I was so hyped to see this movie; every time I saw a billboard or poster I, practically gasped
Happily, I also associate the waning days of 2021 with the off-the-charts excitement I felt about the movies slated for holiday release (Nov/Dec). A roster of titles that featured four -count 'em, FOUR!- movies I anticipated with the eagerness of a kid on Christmas Eve. A rarity of sensation that had me remembering how, when I was young, it felt like every month yielded at least a minimum of two or three movies I convinced myself I couldn't live without. Now, in advanced adulthood and during this, Hollywood's Theme Park Ride era of moviemaking (thank you, Mr. Scorsese), I feel fortunate if a calendar year yields even one movie I can get worked up about. 

To look forward to something is to foresee a tomorrow. So, at the time, with a new year on the horizon and the world emerging from beneath a devastatingly dark cloud, it was all too easy to take my enthusiasm for this uncommonly rich cinema bounty as a glimmer of post-election hope and reminder that the arts endure. 
The Big Four: The Power of the DogNightmare AlleyWest Side Story, & The Tragedy of Macbeth. 
Like many, I leaned heavily on the magic of movies to get me through the darkest days of the pandemic and the death throes of a certain political hellscape. At the close of 2021, the impassioned artistry of these four films lifted my spirits in ways you can't imagine. Each in their individual brilliance buoyed my certainty that art always has and always will surmount chaos and ignorance.   

As badly as I wanted to see these films, only West Side Story had me seriously considering leapfrogging over the recent spikes in COVID outbreaks and seeing it in a theater. Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed (one, actually, my partner's) and I kept my ass at home. But thanks to the swift turnaround from theatrical release to streaming, postponing my cinema gratification to early 2022 proved hardly the hardship I'd imagined it would be. 
Indeed, the decision to wait only served to feed my already keen excitement. Plus, streaming these films from the comfort of home brought with it the bonus of being able to savor each of these outstanding movies multiple times at my leisure. A perk I'm afraid I indulged to a fault. Particularly as pertaining to The Tragedy of Macbeth, which I rapturously watched five times.  
Denzel Washington as Macbeth
Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth
Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan
When it comes to the works of William Shakespeare, I'm hardly an aficionado and more the type to be seen bolting for the exit the minute someone uses "Shakespearean" as an adjective (calling to mind as it does images of capes, tights, and over-orating hams). But of all the Shakespeare plays I've read, tragedies and comedies alike, Macbeth has always been my favorite. An opinion underscored by measure of the sheer number and variety of film, television, and stage adaptions of "The Scottish Play" I've enjoyed over the years.
Bertie Carvel as Banquo
Corey Hawkins as Macduff
Alex Hassell as Ross
Macbeth, Shakespeare's blood-soaked tragedy of a nobleman brought low by ambition and a waning conscience has captivated me since it was required reading in my high school English class. As poetically engrossing on the printed page as it is emotionally absorbing when given visual dimension on the screen, I've always loved Macbeth’s heady potion of history, the supernatural, melodrama, prose, fatalism, swordplay, guilt, ambition, free will, madness, and psychology. It’s got everything! And at the center, two incredibly dynamic, complex, and grievously-flawed characters. 

But it's never been a mystery to me why Macbeth stands out from the pack. Classical in structure and (to my way of thinking) often needlessly formal in presentation, Macbeth, as the stuff of movies, is right up my alley in being precisely the kind of dagger-sharp evisceration of the dark side of humanity that characterize a great many of my favorite films. It's a theme I tend to gravitate to and for which (as this blog has revealed to me) I clearly have a decided preference.
Indeed, for me, one of the most mesmerizing things about this, director Joel Coen’s "Dreamscape meets Theater-of-the-Mind" conceptualization of The Tragedy of Macbeth is the degree to which it evokes the very essence of what my sweetheart might label as "Typical Ken Movies":

Even the Macbeths wouldn't mess with this duo
I'm crazy about Martin Scorsese. Particularly the operatic scope he brings to movies full of psychological and criminal intrigues like Raging Bull (1980), Casino (1995), and The Irishman (2019). Like The Tragedy of Macbeth, many of Scorsese's films are about violent people with Goliath-sized dreams who meet tragic ends due to their inability to get out of the way of their own inherently Lilliputian natures. 

Sly Vince Edwards (and his eyelashes) & scheming Marie Windsor in The Killing
A favorite subgenre of mine is the thriller where a meticulously planned "foolproof" crime goes stupendously off the rails due to weak wills and flaws of character. Lord and Lady Macbeth's grandiose plans are felled by picayune things like jealousy, greed, guilt, and fear. Collapse-points echoed in best-laid-plans favorites like Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), A Simple Plan (1998), Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). 

"I say 'we,' Mr. McCabe because you think small." - McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Movies of the '70s challenged cinema's masculinity myth (and its unwaveringly sure heroes) by giving us dimensional, vulnerable males who experienced self-doubt and were not always dispositionally up to the tasks they set for themselves. A characteristic the vacillating murderer Macbeth shares with the antiheroes of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) and Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971).  

"When you durst do it, then you were a man!" - The Tragedy of Macbeth
Where my partner and I truly part ways in our taste in films is my weakness for movies in which a certain emotional brutalism is used to train a spotlight on aspects of the human condition polite society usually prefers to keep relegated to the shadows. For me, Mike Nichols is a master of this: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Carnal Knowledge (1971), and Closer (2004). Where Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth won me over is that it feels wholly uninterested in the violence of swordplay and battle, but, via the extraordinary performances given by the entire cast, goes in really hard when it comes to the emotional and psychological violence the characters inflict upon one another.   

Macbeth 1971:  For Those Who Think Young
"All youth are reckless beyond words." - Hesiod
Jon Finch (28) & Francesca Annis (25) in Roman Polanski's Macbeth 
For the longest time, Roman Polanski's sprawling and horrifically naturalistic film held solitary sway as my preferred screen adaptation of Macbeth. But Joel Coen's extravagantly stylized The Tragedy of Macbeth (an interpretation so utterly different in every aspect, no rational comparison between the two can be made) has joined it in an equal-esteem partnership. Two entirely different experiences. Two magnificently realized artistic visions. 
Macbeth 2021:  No Country for Old Men 
Frances McDormand (63) & Denzel Washington (66)
In 1971, Polanski's Macbeth collaborator Kenneth Tynan famously remarked that the idea of a Lord and Lady Macbeth in their 60s was "nonsense" because "It's too late for them to be ambitious."  What an absurd statement! As anyone familiar with American politics will tell you, folks over 60 are dangerous as fuck.  

Kathryn Hunter as The Three Witches & The Old Man
I'm not going to embarrass myself and tell you how many times I watched The Tragedy of Macbeth without realizing the phenomenal Kathryn Hunter played that fourth role!

As a film fan enamored of the emotive movie experience, Shakespeare – associating it as I do with Mr. Koller's English class – tends to present a challenge, as my knee-jerk impulse is to approach it academically. 
When I watch a screen adaptation of a Shakespeare play, particularly if I'm unfamiliar with it, my mind feels like it splinters off into three channels. One part focuses on the performances, eager to latch onto something I can psychologically or emotionally identify with in these long-ago-created characters. Another gets absorbed in the period detail and recreation of another time and place (Castles! Crowns! Courts! Capes!). And the third part has me wanting to connect to the language, trying to follow the plot while keeping an appreciative ear open to the rhythms of the words (Blank verse? Prose? Iambic pentameter?). Yet, for all these attempts to engage with the material, in the end, I usually wind up just being overly aware of how effortful it's all been.
I enjoy dissecting and analyzing movies, but AFTER I've seen the film, not WHILE I'm watching it.
To Kiss - To Kill
Mirrored framing captures the opposite ends of passion's spectrum

Because I always overthink everything, my cinema ideal has always been the movie that encourages me to turn off my mind and surrender to the sensory, visceral experience. (That I'm free to pick apart to my heart's content later.) The Tragedy of Macbeth—an aesthetically astonishing interpretation that envisions Macbeth as a noirish, metaphysical thriller —gave me just such an experience.  
Joel Coen (in his first solo effort after making 18 films with his brother, Ethan) is staggeringly successful in realizing his expressed desire to make a film of Macbeth that doesn't "hide the play." And indeed, The Tragedy of Macbeth's melding of hyper-cinematic mise-en-scène to an aggressively stylized theatricality creates a world dynamically "untethered to reality." As a more cohesively realized example of what Francis Ford Coppola strove for in One From the Heart, The Tragedy of Macbeth achieves what Truffaut called "the betrayal of reality"… film's canny ability to make use of artifice to reveal truth.
Moses Ingram as Lady Macduff

As an adaptation of Macbeth that I feel prioritizes the internal and interpersonal struggles of the characters, the lack of ornamentation in The Tragedy of Macbeth's stark visual style extends to its performances. Words are spoken rather than orated, and as there is none of that "In the Grand Shakespearean Tradition" kind of acting on display (except, provocatively, as a signifier of Macbeth losing his mind), it felt like I was given greater access to the pitiable humanity behind Lord and Lady Macbeth’s desperate ambition.
The use of close-ups in The Tragedy of Macbeth forces
a sometimes discomfiting intimacy with the characters. 
Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel's camera seems to exalt (as I did) in letting light and shadow play across the cast's intelligent eyes and expressive, lived-in faces. To watch a contemporary American film is to be bombarded by so much botox, fillers, and tightly-pulled flesh, discerning the display of emotion becomes a game. The facial wrinkles and furrows on glorious display in The Tragedy of Macbeth have poetry.

The Kid Who Would Be King
Banquo and his son Fleance (Lucas Barker)

There's an exchange in the neo-noir thriller Black Widow (1987) where investigator Debra Winger asks serial widow Theresa Russell why marrying even one wealthy man wasn't enough to make her rich. Russell responds: "Rich is hard. You never really figure you're quite there."
Swap "power" for rich, and you've got Macbeth in a nutshell. 
The Tragedy of Macbeth taps into a characteristic I've observed in very ambitious people: the joy of attaining an objective always seems so short-lived because there’s no distinction between greed and growth. There's never any arrival point for satisfaction because "having a lot" still doesn't mean "having the most," so there is always more to get. Inevitably, ambition, when unmoored to the spiritual overseers of morality and ethics, creates an internal void. A void that comes to be bridged by that ruinous, self-serving philosophy of the power-hungry…" the end justifies the means."  
" 'Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil."   /   "Yet, here's a spot."
Lady Macbeth, scoffing at the aftermath of violence, is later haunted by its phantom. The mirroring of shots in The Tragedy of Macbeth infers that despite the exercising of free will, events follow a predetermined pattern. 

Ignoble Denzel Washington is my favorite Denzel Washington.
His riveting performance as Macbeth totally overwhelmed me. It's a thing of beauty

Casting Shakespeare with two top-tier American Oscar winners known for their straightforward, naturalistic acting styles sparked all kinds of "Consider the possibilities!" excitement in me. My curiosity about what qualities Denzel Washington (with his unassailable gravitas) and Frances McDormand (she of the stripped-down emotional bluntness) would bring to The Tragedy of Macbeth was rewarded tenfold.  
It plays no small part in my adoration of The Tragedy of Macbeth that Washington and McDormand's riveting, poignant performances single-handedly elevate the emotional stakes of this tale like no other I've seen. This is the first adaptation of Macbeth to give me waterworks. 

There's no end to the accolades I heap upon every member of this assured, accomplished cast. Standouts are Bertie Cavell's Banquo, with his sad eyes and heroic eyebrows. Moses Ingram's regal Lady Macduff. And then there's that flawless changeling, Kathryn Hunter. But a particular favorite is Alex Hassell as the sly Ross, whose role is amplified here and is costumed in a way that fittingly and amusingly has him resembling a male Morticia Addams. 

A parting shot of appreciation for the absolutely breathtaking beauty of The Tragedy of Macbeth. Exquisite Expressionism in a barren, storybook nightmare. 
Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnell -  Production design: Stefan Dechant

Sparse brevity is not only a visual characteristic of The Tragedy of Macbeth. In a Coen Brothers interview about their process adapting Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel No Country for Old Men for their 2007 film, they remarked that they don't edit so much as compress. 
I'd say that perfectly describes how Joel Coen delivers a traditionally 2 ½ hour Shakespeare work (Polanski's Macbeth runs 2 hours 20 minutes) in a bare-bones 105 minutes.
The paring down of the original text is so judicious I never felt I missed a thing. Indeed, I had to re-read Shakespeare's Macbeth with a copy of Coen's screenplay at my side to even know what was excised. 

January 2021: In a world emerging from darkness, The Tragedy of Macbeth made an indelible, enlivening impression on me, for it's sometimes too easy to forget the transcendent power of art. I think it's a genuinely masterful film of astonishing beauty that made real for me, the catharsis of tragedy.  

See a clip from The Tragedy of Macbeth on the Cinema Dreams YouTube channel

Copyright © Ken Anderson     2009 - 2023


  1. When I saw your review of "Macbeth", the first thing I asked myself was "How did I miss this?" I honestly had no idea that this movie even existed. That was strange for two reasons. First, I regularly check out IMDB which MUST have had some reference to this film on its front page at some point (but there's so much "stuff" there these days, I visually tune out most of it and go straight to the search bar). Second, a few years back, I got on a Shakespeare kick and decided to read (in some cases reread) his works. (I hope that doesn't sound pretentious but I'm well into middle age and finally decided to see what all the fuss was about). So I read "Hamlet", "King Lear", "Othello", "The Merchant of Venice", "Julius Caeser", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "The Tempest" among others. And I tried to watch filmed versions where I could. For example, I saw the old filmed version of Hamlet with Lawrence Olivier. And I read "Macbeth" as well. It was a "reread" as I'd read it in high school (but only really remembered the part about the witches). There were a number of filmed versions of "Macbeth" to pick from and so I'd never got around to seeing one. Brings me to my point: COVID hit and I developed a mild to moderate form of Long COVID. As a result, I was dealing with health struggles for over a year: 2020-2021. I gave up on Shakespeare during that time and mainly read and watched mindless stuff (it helped pass the time when I had a particularly bad day). But life and health are better now, Shakespeare beckons once again and I'm grateful to you for bringing this film to my notice. It looks like a fascinating take on the old story.

    1. Hi Ron –
      First, I'm SO sorry to hear you suffered such a long bout of COVID. Glad to hear you're back to good health and ready to resume your reacquaintance with the works of Shakespeare. What a marvelous thing to do! I applaud your efforts. It sounds more like an act of intellectual curiosity and cerebral fitness than pretension. (Indeed, it's practically a revolutionary act in these book-banning times of boastful semiliterate ignorance.)

      Under the circumstances you described, I understand how "The Tragedy of Macbeth" might have slipped through the cracks, publicity-wise. I kept myself in such a bubble of internet avoidance during the pandemic that I first became aware of this MACBETH production when I saw the billboard for it on Sunset Blvd. I’m always kind of late to the party these days when it comes to contemporary film releases.
      Since I stopped taking the newspaper, I've yet to find a website to reliably keep me updated about what movies are coming out. For me, the IMDB front "page" is an absolute clusterfuck of dizzying-to-navigate hype. Big-budget films and click-bait distractions all but submerge small films and independents.

      But with your interest in Shakespeare, I hope you someday get around to seeing this adaptation of Macbeth. It's really staggering in its beauty. You’re probably not as over enamoured of MACBETH as I am, but in case you’re in the market for other intriguing adaptations, here are a couple of my favorites:
      Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" (1957) and a
      A 2010 BBC4 production with Patrick Stewart that sets the tale in a militaristic 20th century.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Ron. Should some later date you check out THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, I'd love hearing your thoughts on it. Take care!

    2. I had the opportunity to watch Macbeth and I'll say a few things. First, the negative. I didn't understand the purpose of expanding the role of Ross. He's instrumental in rescuing Fleance and the film implies that he's responsible for Lady Macbeth's death but I didn't really see how that added much to the film. And I felt the actor playing MacDuff was a bit flat in his performance. But these are minor quibbles.

      I loved the spooky vibe (it almost feels like a horror movie) that ran through the entire film This juxtaposition of the natural vs the supernatural and the highly stylized "stage but not a stage" definitely contributed to it. And the witch(es)! Kathryn Hahn was genuinely creepy. For contrast purposes, I watched a little known production of Macbeth from 2018 that had an actual Scotsman as Macbeth. The witches were portrayed as almost nunlike and after seeing Hahn's bizarre performance, they came across as extremely uninteresting characters. (When the witches are boring, there's something wrong with your production.)

      I was initially a little put off by the age of the actors (as mentioned in another comment) but as the play went on, I felt it worked well. As you stated somewhere else, frustrated ambitions and passions don't go away just because you get old. In the case of the Macbeths, you get the sense that this was the culmination of a lifetime of frustrated hopes. Frances McDormand is wonderful as Lady Macbeth. When you read the play, you feel like the character just suddenly shows up insane. However, McDormand communicates her realization of the enormity of their action, how it affected her husband and how it didn't make their lives any better with her face and eyes creating a believable transition from sanity to guilt-fed insanity. I initially didn't feel that Denzel Washington was working as Macbeth. He seemed too...nice. I think I get what the filmmakers were going for. The contrast between the friendly somewhat world weary Macbeth at the beginning and the somewhat deranged killer of men, women and children who has little chance of successfully holding onto his throne is chilling.

      And just so you know, I had the play open on my lap as I watched the film and, indeed, the editing that takes place from play to screenplay is so expertly done that you really don't miss the parts that are excised. Even now, I'd be hard pressed to tell you what was missing.

      Overall, I really enjoyed it! Thanks for reviewing it here.

    3. Hi Ron - Thanks for sharing your thoughtful observations on THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH. Your pros and cons offer insight into what aspects of Coen's adaptation drew your attention, presented obstacles, puzzled you, or worked exceptionally well.
      Your attentiveness to what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of some of the performances is illuminating. While it sounds like you were receptive to the experience, you can still indicate where it worked for you (The Witches) and where it fell short (I totally see what you mean about this film's Macduff). You provide a nicely rounded perspective of your experience that reads like listening to you speak about the movie after just seeing it.
      This is most evident (and rewarding) in your response to the characters' ages, especially in your pinpoint take on the variable aspects of Washington's take on Macbeth. Yours is probably the most concise description of what I believe was indeed Coen's and Washington's concept of who "this" Macbeth was.
      Like you, I think this production does well by Lady Macbeth. What isn't on the page is conveyed so magnificently in McDormand's mounting frustration with her husband obsessing over what cannot be undone. There's such domestic realism in those "Are we STILL rehashing that murder thing?" looks she gives to her ever-brooding husband.
      And I love that you, too, took to the original text to see how this was whittled down to such a compact vehicle! It’s an utterly remarkable job of adaptation/editing.
      Thanks for retuning and sharing such valuable insights, Ron. I’m so besotted by THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH that I’ve no shadows of critical contrast to offer. You’ve nicely provided readers with a bit of balance. Much appreciated!

  2. Ken, I'm glad you're highlighting this unusual and fascinating film - stage plays are hard to transfer to cinema while honoring the virtues of both mediums; I think this movie succeeds in a striking way.

    The final three months of 2021 were my return to movie theaters after having last been in one in December 2019. I was eager to see The French Dispatch, Last Night in Soho, Dune, House of Gucci, C'mon C'mon, West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, Licorice Pizza, and this film, The Tragedy of Macbeth. (Joel without Ethan! Cinematically shocking, lol.) House of Gucci was an unimaginative bore, Dune part one simply lacks the spin David Lynch gave to his version, and, aside from a few clever ideas, WSS did not impress me, but the remaining six movies are all very fine.

    I couldn't help but compare Joel Coen's Macbeth to Roman Polanski's. There is a funny bit in Coen's that makes me wonder if it's a callback to the criticized "dagger before me" in Polanski's film. (A glint that turns out not to be a floating knife.) I also noted that both of these films add a new epilogue - a pessimistic one concerning Donalbain in Polanski's, but an optimistic take concerning a certain character (who should be dead) in the Joel Coen.

    1. Hi Mark –
      Nice to hear THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was among the films you took in when you returned to seeing movies in actual, real-life theaters. Of the films you listed, I haven't seen THE FRENCH DISPATCH, DUNE, and C'MON C'MON. But being reminded of them brings back the unusual array of exciting and divergent films released then. Bored with so much that was formulaic and genre-based on streaming sites during the lockdown, even the ambitious failures (which HOUSE OF GUCCI was for me) were a pleasure to discover.

      THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was given a somewhat subdued, arthouse release, so I'm glad that figured into the films you ventured out to see.

      And when it comes to making artistic comparisons, while I do think comparisons made about the relative virtues or merits of similar works always boils down to individual, subjective taste, academic and observational comparisons are fun and even very useful. Especially in discussions relating to the art of adaptation and the personal stamp an artist can put on a work.

      You call attention to several aspects that most definitely brought my mind to Polanski’s MACBETH. Especially as the fatal, final Duncan/Macbeth encounter is not depicted in the play, yet Coen’s visualization almost felt like a knowing nod/homage to Polanski’s handling of the moment.
      And I’m glad you brought up the different codas of each film and how they “feel”…pessimistic/optimistic.
      Comparisons of the sort you made inspire the visiting of both films and encourage a post-viewing reflection on the impact made on existing works by different artistic interpretations.
      Like you, I think Coen’s take is very striking. Thanks for contributing your comments, Mark!

    2. This is off-topic, but I was wondering if you have seen the new Ari (Hereditary, Midsommar) Aster's film, Beau is Afraid. Talk about pessimism! It's an impressive, dream-logic, heavily psychological tale - and I'm still trying to decide if it's brilliant or a big fat mess. Or both!

    3. Hi Mark- Since I no longer go to movies in theaters (or I'm waiting for THE one to get me back) I haven't seen it yet. But Ari Aster is a MAJOR fave of mine and so I'm looking forward to seeing it when it comes to some streaming site. In the meantime, I've been remarkably adept at avoiding seeing or reading anything about it.
      But it’s terribly rare for any filmmaker to have an unbroken chain of hitting it out of the ballpark, as i think Aster did with HEREDITARY and MIDSOMMER. Jordan Peele's NOPE was a big disappointment for me on the heels of his two films GET OUT and US…both of which I was crazy about. We'll see!

  3. I tend to agree with Kenneth Tynan on the geriatric casting in Shakespearean adaptations. I think it's in part what keeps audiences away. Look how they flocked to Zeffirelli's age-appropriate Romeo and Juliet. Now they wring their hands at casting minors to play themselves. Macbeth ascended the throne at 35. If they really wanted to let Washington chew the scenery, they should have hired him to play King Lear.

    1. As a person who never could fully surrender to MAME (1974) because I couldn't get past feeling that Lucille Ball was entirely too old for the part, I fully understand and appreciate anyone having a personal, wholly subjective preference for young or older actors in Shakespearean roles. Specifically, as it applies to something like Romeo and Juliet, where the characters are 16 and 13.
      But when I think of Kenneth Tynan's quote, my mind always goes to Addison Dewitt's response to Miss Caswell in ALL ABOUT EVE "You've got a point. An idiotic one, but a point."
      Tynan's well-made point is that--for reasons related to acting skill/experience and the stiff formality associated with "the Classics"---older actors have too long held sway over The Bard. Live theater's suspension of disbelief is more forgiving of mature actors in youthful roles ("Miss Channing is Ageless"). But film's hyper-realism has (as in the cited Zeffirelli film) allowed the young to breathe new life into Shakespeare's screen adaptations, making his works more accessible to younger audiences.
      Where I think Tynan's point exposes the bats bumping against one another in his belfry is in his assertion that specific passions (ambition) no longer reside within the elderly.
      Polanski's MACBETH was an adaptation in which the youth of Lord & Lady is an integral part of the artistic concept. The couple's youth plays into and proves emblematic of their sexual passion, impulsiveness, and, specifically, their rash impatience with letting the prophecy play out in its own time.
      Age is used just as purposefully in Joel Coen's film, the advanced years of Lord & Lady introducing and informing a different motivational base for their actions. One born of entitlement, the keenly felt awareness of time passing and of not having achieved the station in life one thinks one is owed. The young MACBETH has the daring invincibility of youth propelling his actions; the older Macbeth has "this is my last chance" desperation and rage fueling his.
      When the same play can be accessed from two very different avenues of interpretation based solely on changing the protagonists' ages, that tells me that age in an adaptation can convey more than just wrinkles vs. smooth skin. Reflective of life itself, a character's age defines the mind, means, and motives.
      One of my favorite scenes is when Lady Macbeth reveals she knows what it is to nurse a baby. For it's clear the Macbeths have lost a child. A tragedy no matter how you look at it, but in Polanski's tale, the couple's youth suggests the bittersweet possibility that the still-young Lady Macbeth may yet bear more children (further feeding the theme that they are too impatient to let time alter their fate). That's a beautiful advantage gained by a young cast.
      In THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, the same sequence has a poignant finality to it, knowing that the Macbeths have suffered the death of a child and will have no more. Indeed, in a later scene, Macbeth curses the fates for not having given him an heir to challenge the prophecized ascendance of Fleance, and Coen cuts to Lady Macbeth to show a heartbreaking panoply of reactions play across her face. You see the pain of loss revisited; the sting of recrimination and blame in his cruel words is visible in her eyes. For me, it is precisely the age of the characters that contributes to the scene's effectiveness. That is, if one sees "old" as a still worthy and valid human being whose wrinkled faces contain a lifetime's experience. That's what I see, and that's what I think Tynan's quote ignores the value of.
      So while it's perfectly valid and understandable for one to have a subjective resistance to elderly actors in Shakespeare (and historical accuracy is a specious route. Dramatically, MACBETH concerns itself with far more than Scottish history), there's more than enough imagination to go around (not to mention more than enough material) to accommodate the artistic participation of all ages, ethnicities, and genders in the Shakespeare universe.

  4. Another wonderful post, Ken. For a very different take on Macbeth, you may be interested in with the fantastic Ruth Roman.

    1. !!!!! Hi Donald - I have never heard of the film "Joe MacBeth" before, and I'm thrilled to check it out. Thank you very much for your kind words regarding this post. I appreciate your reading it and then being so generous as to suggest a heretofore unknown to me adaptation/variation of on of my favorite Shakespeare plays. With Ruth Roman, yet! Cheers, Donald, and thanks again.

  5. Hi there lovely, given you a wee mention here as one of my fave blogs...

    1. Hello, Gill - How sweet of you to mention me as one of your fave blogs that you think more people should know about! With so many out there that you follow, that's quite the honor. Thank you! Glad to see your cheery and personable post, too, answering all those clever questions. Hope all is well, and a big tip of the hat to you! XOXO