Macbeth (1971)

Dir. Roman Polanski / UK / Drama / Colour / 140m

Roman Polanski’s version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth comes a little closer to home, but still not quite in Scotland. This time it is actually Northumberland and Wales that doubles as the Scottish highlands.

Unlike Welles’ version, this has fewer visual flourishes; preferring to concentrate on the story and characters. But there are some impressive images that use the 1970s relaxed censorship to fully portray the violence in Shakespeare’s story (though it still earned an X certificate for its nudity and violence). The opening battle is impressively staged in grubby detail; the traitor Cawdor is beheaded; Duncan is murdered on screen for the first time; and the final duel to the death is absolutely electrifying. At each clash of metal on metal, and flesh on stone wall, Polanski cut a single frame of film, making the impact almost palpable.

Other film versions of Macbeth still manage to look stagey but Polanski treats it properly as a film with a big visceral canvas. It is a pity that he couldn’t have used real Scottish locations to give it a final seal of authenticity.

macbeth 1971

The natural connection

Northumberland and Wales representing Scotland

Natural Scotland Films is part of the Year of Natural Scotland

year of natural scotland

Connect with us