William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Macbeth, is a tragedy brilliantly brought to the 21st Century by Rupert Goold. Although Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play set in 16th Century Scotland, Rupert Goold modernizes the play by changing the setting to a Soviet-styled country and implementing modern elements into the characters and theme. Although Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Rupert Goold’s film adaptation share many ideologies and a general storyline, a difference exists in the setting, the characters, and the overall ambience of the story.
In an effort to successfully relate the plot to his audience, Rupert Goold places the setting for Macbeth in a bleak, militaristic, Society-styled state, described by critic Ben Brantley as a “joyless, stark environment that resembles nothing so much as a morgue.” The setting contributes to a foreboding atmosphere, felt by the audience throughout the entire play. The mannerisms and costumes of the characters of Rupert Goold’s film are in context with the setting.
As what critic Joseph White accurately describes as “more vicious and less pitiable,” Rupert Goold’s Macbeth is perceived by the viewers of film as a Stalin-like dictator. The halls of his palace are decorated with murals of his face. The film also illustrates the large masses of crowds. Through this perspective of Macbeth, Rupert Goold emphasizes the theme of the corrosive power of unbridled ambition.
Not unlike Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character of Macbeth in Rupert Goold’s film is a savage, power-hungry politician. In Goold’s film, however, Macbeth finds humor in the tumultuous events leading to his downfall. His chilling laughter upon the announcement of his wife’s suicide and his demeaning attitude towards his fellow regents suggest his general lack of guilt and self-affliction. His unquenchable desire for ambition is poignantly displayed through soliloquies, when the camera affixes the focus to the fiery eyes of Macbeth. Through the manipulation of gazes, viewers of Rupert Goold’s film are able to experience the thoughts and consciousness of Macbeth. As what critic Ben Brantley describes as “raw susceptibility,” Lady Macbeth foreshadows danger through Macbeth’s poses.
Rupert Goold successfully effuses more fear into the film by implementing staging devices and symbolism. Through the croaking of a raven and haunting background music, Goold subjects his viewers to the same state of agitation and rage felt by the characters. Goold emphasizes symbolism by using physical instruments such as a figurine, suggestive of the former Thane of Cowder. Through the figurine, the characters and the viewers, alike, are fixated by the prophecies made by the witches.
The presence of a state of Hell is evident in the film. Unlike the witches’ cave in Shakespeare’s cave, the nurses of the film reveal their...