Compare 3 film openings of Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Compare the openings of 3 film versions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Which do you think is the most successful and why?

I am writing an essay to compare the opening scene of Macbeth as directed by Orson Welles in 1948, Bogdanov in 1998 and Polanski in 1971. There are many ways in which these scenes could be compared, but I decided to restrict it to camera movement, setting, props and sound.

All three directors use the idea of nature as the first shot. Orson Welles uses a distant castle shaped rock, Polanski uses a sun setting on the horizon, and Bogdanov uses a beautiful green valley. This first shot demonstrates the wild and untamed beauty of nature and its sheer size.

In Orson Welles’ version, the scene opens with the view of some menacing clouds above the mist. In the distance we can see a castle shaped rock.

The next shot shows three silhouetted figures high up on a rock face. These figures need to be seen if the viewer is to understand the scene. Showing them up high gives us a sense of their power. We can’t actually see the witch’s faces. This makes the viewer feel tense, as you don’t know whom they are. Everything around the witches is dead or dying, which gives us a feeling of despair. It also makes viewers think that the witches make everything die whenever they go near or touch anything, which suggests that if they go near Macbeth, he will die. I think that the director showed everything around as being dead because he wanted to show the viewers that were evil, although outside of events and circumstances.

We next see a close up of the witch’s cauldron. It’s bubbling violently as they’re listing the ingredients to put in. They then start chanting. This makes the scene very intense as it sounds like the witches are building up to something big. They start to pull, what looks like a clay statue out of the cauldron and start wiping all the contents of the cauldron off it. This shot is very intensive and secretive, as we want to know what the witches are doing. When they finish cleaning the statue, we hear the quote ‘ there to meet with Macbeth’ and a clash of cymbals. Once we hear this, we can guess the witch’s evil plan. The witch’s are after Macbeth. He’s the one. He’s their evil creation.

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I think that Orson Welles chose this particular setting for his play because it gives the viewer the sense of intensity.

Polanski starts with a peaceful beach as his first shot. In the background we can see a red sky, which could suggest blood or danger. The sky then starts to turn to a blue-grey colour, which makes the viewer calm. The shot stays with this view for a while as we see the sun rising. We then see feet and a walking stick appear as three people walk in front of the camera. The camera then ...

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