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This is Macbeth as never seen before! Presenting a vibrant and exciting production of "that Scottish play" offering newcomers and Shakespeare lovers a memorable experience with one of Shakespeare's darkest tragedies. Using Shakespeare's classic text, the production is set in a timeless zone somewhere in the twentieth century against a raw, urban industrial environment giving the film a surreal quality. The abstracted setting puts this version of Macbeth alongside other modern treatments of Shakespeare such as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. Ultimately a deeply thought-provoking portrait of Macbeth and his Lady-a sense of two powerful characters who have sown the seeds of their own destruction.
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Gussying up the characters in leather jackets and denims and replacing broadswords with automatic rifles, this British television version of Shakespeare's play is fitfully inventive, but more often merely thrashes about, enamored of its own sound and fury. The best guess for when director Michael Bogdanov intends the play to be set is some Mad Max-ish future, based on the abandoned industrial building he uses for the castle at Dunsinane; the seemingly iconoclastic choice actually reveals how confused and incoherent this production is. The dingy brick exterior is neither a believable seat of power nor a visual manifestation of precivilized barbarity (as were the papier-mâché caves in Orson Welles's unfairly maligned film version). In the end it's just a warehouse, so why are its inhabitants walking about in tuxedoes and seating themselves at elegantly laid-out banquet tables? Only because, it seems, the imagery looks cool; and that should not be reason enough. Hand in hand with the confused visuals comes an indifferent grasp on character: Sean Pertwee and Greta Scacchi both do fine work as the Scottish usurper and his lady, but they don't bring anything fresh or original to the roles (both of which have admittedly been pretty well explored by now). Some vaguely annoying visuals aside, this Macbeth offers nothing new. --Bruce Reid
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