Shakespeare According to Roman Polanski and Orson Welles
Any film maker when making their own interpretation of a play needs to create a general atmosphere relevant to the original script.
This would have been the case for Roman Polanski and Orson Welles when
each was creating his own version of act 1 scene 1 of Shakespeare's
Macbeth. In their individual historical contexts they each had
cinematic equipment at their disposal which Shakespeare did not have.
When the later called for lightening and thunder ,he was given thunder
boards, his play was performed in daylight with no special lighting
effects in 16th century England. However Shakespeare did have the
advantage of his audience understanding the superstitions concerning
witchcraft, which unfortunately a modern audience would not have.
Having noted these points Welles and Polanski follow Shakespeare's
requirements for his play in their cinematic interpretations of
Macbeth act1 scene1.
Polanskis witches were quite normal looking, one is young , one is old
and one is middle aged. They are also quite harmless looking, but that
is really deceptive. One witch is blind, one dumb and one deaf ; they
need and depend on eachother to stay alive. In Shakespeare's day 3 was
a magic number, the witches appearances are very dramatic, perhaps due
to their infirmities. The oldest witch is the most terrifying looking
because she has got no eyes and her skin has grown over the sockets.
It makes her look grotesque. Each appears to have their own
personality, which makes them seem more normal than stereotypical
Welles' witches seem much more traditional and stereotypical. He
doesn't create them as clearly as Polanski. You see silhouettes of
figures in black robes, long hair and claw like fingers, throwing
ingredients into the cauldron while they chant. They have have
Scottish accents. Sentences start with one witch and end with another,
he keeps an air of mystery around them. These witches throw their
hands in the air as if to worship satun, they chant forcefully.
Although both Polanski's and Welles' versions are different they still
reflect the evil Shakespeare wanted.
Regardless of what any film director did they had to have healthy
respect for the words themselves. In Polanski's version, the witches
say "fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through fog and filthy air."
They walk around chanting and spitting in unison. Polansi then leaves
a pause when the witches chant forcefully "Macbeth". His film then
opens with the witches making mysterious riddles. He doesn't mention
the witches' familiars paddock and greymalkin. He also makes the
audience lie in suspence because they don't know of Macbeth. The order
that a director uses the plays text and imagery is an important factor
for the final outcome.