Media Comparision Essay, Research Paper
In this essay I shall be comparing two, media versions of ‘Macbeth’ one was made for a television audience, another for a cinema audience. The original version of the text was for the stage, and these two media could not have been dreant of by Shakespeare. As Kenneth Branagh says “There are so many different ways to match images with words. This four hundred year old play, you could approach it as if it were a completely new script.” This statement could explain why there are so many new adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, and why they change so much from the original Roman Polanski’s version (1971) of the play doesn’t change too much as it is for a cinema audience, and the people viewing it would have payed and would have been expecting a more conventional, unchanged ‘Macbeth’ because they made a deliberate choice to view it. On the other hand people watching ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ may not have wanted, or intended to see a Shakespeare film and may not normally opt to watch Shakespeare. Both versions are made with this in mind, and adapt the play accordingly. The Polanski version opens with a long establishing shot, giving the viewer an idea of the settings. It is set on a beach, which is deserted and lifeless. The soundtrack plays a distorted string instrument with a regular piano note as an accompaniment, making for a very unusual effect, as it is played alongside a speeded up sequence of the beach using time lapse photography. A single seagull flying across the sky signifies the change back into realtime, it sqawks as the nondiagetic sound fades. Traditionally the cry of seagulls have been associated with the cry of lost souls and this has probably been chosen for that reason. In ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ the beginning is similarly bleak. The first shot is a long shot of a scrap heap, the colours of the landscape are dull and depressing with lots of browns and greys. The colours in the Polanski version are stronger, and probably more significant; red stains the settings at the beginning, using a filter on the camera, signifying blood. This pre-empts what actually happens in the play. This colour rapidly changes from red to white and eventually to blue. At this point the diagetic sound of a human cough is heard, preparing the audience for the arrival of the witches. A similar technique is used in ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ as MacDuff comes into view the crunching of gravel can be heard making the audience aware of his presence. In the Polanski version, it’s not a human that appears first on the screen. A long twig comes in diagonally from the right, with a distorted unnatural sound. The twig is used by the witches to draw a circle in the sand as they appear on screen. They appear to be frail, and dressed in rags that are colourless. Their faces are made to look ugly, and throughout the whole sequence they never smile once. It is made clear that they are witches, whereas in the Woolcock version, the characters are identified with freeze frames during the fight, freezing an aggresive expressions. It is also a quick and effective way for the audience to be made aware of the characters as they may not be as familiar with the text as a cinema audience. After the establishing shot in the Polanski version it becomes a high angle shot of the witches. Throughout this sequence there is a minimal amout of cuts, in stark contrast to ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ which cuts frequently, making for a more dramatic introduction. The cuts are used with quick replays to give more of an impact to the fighting, which I believe works very well. The cuts are appropriate because it adds to the excitement, along with the fast non-diagetic sound track. There is very little diagetic sound in this part and there is no dialogue. In the fight sequence the lottery is on the television, suggesting things like what MacBeth is doing is a game of chance, luck and ultimately based on greed. During the fight sequence, the camera cuts to Duncan in a social club. He’s sitting at the bar, and directly behind him is a gambling machine, bringing in the greed issue again. The machine has a light, and for a moment the lights are arranged so that it is almost like a crown over his head. As the witches perform their ritual, their voices make it seem like they have done this many times before, as they are out of time and weary. The speech in ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ ’s introduction is a lot of different, almost radical. In the past, Shakespeare has been seen as exclusive for middle class whites. By placing a black actor with a Carribean accent, a gold tooth wearing casual clothes, in the first shot it breaks down these stereotypes of conventional Shakespeare and, in the words of Al Pacino, “gets their (the audience) guard down so that they are receptive to Shakespeare.” MacDuff’s soliloquy is made up of original text, but isn’t actually directly from the text. He says it although the events had already took place and it is made to seem like a flashback, and the sequence is shot as an extreme closeup on his face. The closeups in the Polanski version aren’t as long, and this makes for a different effect and it focuses more on their expressions rather than speech. This is because images can often take the place of words, and be just as effective, if not more so. The Polanski version is very successful in creating an atmosphere of the eerie and supernatural. It achieves this by using different techniques, like the filters mentioned earlier. An interesting technique is used towards the end as the witches leave the scene. They appear to be walking slowly but moving very far, “hovering through the fog and filthy air”. This is done by slowly bringing the focus out on the camera, making for an extremely uncanny effect. The silhouettes of the witches then become the letters for the title, this graphic suggests the thematic link between the witches and MacBeth. The two versions are very different mainly because of the media that they have been designed for and also because of the time at which the films were made. ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ raises issues about bringing Shakespeare to different audiences. Some people would say that Shakespeare should be left untouched. Others welcome the changes, as does actor Sir Ian McKellen “If an audience enjoys it, it will be Shakespeare that they are enjoying.” Changes to the text are done with varying success. I think ‘Macbeth on the Estate’ would have been better if the language would have been updated, as the Shakesperian language doesn’t seem to fit with the modern characters. The Polanski version is a more typical approach to adaptation, and is well edited and presented for a film of its period. However I do prefer the Woolcock version because I believe Shakespeare should be accessible to everybody and eventually original Shakespeare will die out if it is not updated to suit modern tastes.