18 October 2018
Analysis of the 1971 film version of Macbeth: Macbeth’s Soliloquy
In viewing the film adaptations of the play Macbeth, I chose to analyze the 1971 version directed by Roman Polanski. I decided to analyze the Macbeth soliloquy scene in this film as well as the murder scene of King Duncan. Roman Polanski’s film adaptation is effective based on its ability to establish the atmosphere/mood, themes and characters in the play due to the music, acting and camera shots being used.
This scene from the play deals with internal conflict as well as introduces an important theme: visions and hallucinations caused by guilt. The “dagger of the mind” that Macbeth sees is a manifestation of the inner struggle that Macbeth feels as he contemplates the brutal murder he is about to commit. Immediately before he is to murder King Duncan, Macbeth sees an image of a bloody dagger in front of him: “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee / …Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going; / And such an instrument I was to use” (II. i. 71). This demonstrates that the dagger enforces the idea for Macbeth that this murder is something he is destined, maybe even compelled, to commit. Macbeth hasn’t yet committed the act, but his conscience is already riddled with guilt.
In Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of this scene, Macbeth’s thoughts in his soliloquy are spoken aloud to the audience. Firstly, Polanski uses the element of music and sound as the dagger appears to lead Macbeth into darkness. The music is dissonant and disturbing; it is mainly low notes being played, this all adds to the suspense of this scene. As Macbeth goes to grab the dagger in the air, high notes are played, this adds to the fact that it is a false creation that Macbeth sees. This lets the audience know that this is only a manifestation from his mind about the murder of King Duncan. Dark music is also used in the murder scene as soon as Macbeth stabs King Duncan to create a more gruesome effect to the event occurring. This is effective in establishing the atmosphere/mood in the play due this scene being dark and suspenseful as viewers can see the internal thoughts Macbeth is experiencing with having to murder King Duncan. The music adds on to that effect to create an ominous mood based off the text.
In addition to the music and sounds used in Polanski’s film, Macbeth’s acting in his soliloquy has a great effect on establishing the theme of guilt that Macbeth is internally dealing with in the play. When Macbeth sees the dagger and tries to grasp the handle, he realizes that it is just a hallucination and puts his hands on his head in distress. This demonstrates the guilty conscience he is feeling with having to commit the bloody deed. He realizes that the obsessive thinking around the murder is causing the bloody dagger to appear as a sign of his guilt. In the murder scene, Macbeth enters King Duncan’s room and proceeds to slowly move the dagger along the King’s bare chest. At this point, this is when Macbeth starts to shake and tear up as he feels guilt for the deed he is about to commit. The acting with gestures and expression effectively brings a more realistic view of the dramatic tension and Macbeth’s contemplations.
Lastly, Polanski uses camera shots in this scene to effectively establish the character of Macbeth. As Macbeth is being led by the dagger, there is a point of view shot where Macbeth is facing the dagger that is in mid-air (40:36). The dagger appears to lead Macbeth into darkness, this creates the feeling that Macbeth is unable to control his own actions, and it is in fact the dagger that is leading him to commit this brutal crime. In the murder scene, there is a close-up shot of Macbeth staring at King Duncan when he is about to murder him (43:44). Macbeth’s face is half in shadow, this is very symbolic due to the light representing good and the darkness representing evil. This illustrates the idea that Macbeth is clearly undecided about committing the crime. These camera shots effectively establish Macbeth’s character as vulnerable and indecisive in the play.
Macbeth’s soliloquy in the play has a message that ambition is a dangerous emotion. Macbeth’s vulnerability to the prophecies and manipulation overpowers him, which corrupts his mind. His sense of dread and guilt are before him as he sees the bloody dagger just moments before he plans to murder King Duncan. Roman Polanski’s 1971 film adaptation uses dark music and sound effects, acting with expression to convey the theme of guilt and various camera shots characterizing Macbeth to effectively establish the atmosphere/mood, theme and characters of this scene in the play. Works Cited
Macbeth. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. John Finch, Francesca Annis, and Martin Shaw. Columbia Pictures, 1971. DVD.
Macbeth. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. John Finch, Francesca Annis, and Martin Shaw. Columbia Pictures, 1971. Putlocker. Web. 16 October 2018.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. 2nd Edition. Edited by: Ken Roy. Harcourt Canada Ltd, 2001.