Friday, August 26, 2016

Macbeth (1948)

Year 8, Day 239 - 8/26/16 - Movie #2,434    

BEFORE: Orson Welles carries over from "F For Fake", he had a hand in a lot of productions of Shakespeare's plays, whether on radio, stage or on film.  And this one was made back when he was thin Orson Welles, not the larger ironic parody of Charles Foster Kane that he became in the later years. 

THE PLOT:  11th-century Scottish nobleman Macbeth is led by an evil prophecy and his ruthless yet desirable wife to the treasonous act that makes him king. But he does not enjoy his newfound, dearly-won kingship...

AFTER: Let's see, a nobleman gets ahead by eliminating or bad-mouthing all of his rivals, encouraged by his beautiful but ruthless European wife, until he is finally made the leader of his country, but is driven mad in the process.  Oh, if only there were some kind of current political situation I could use to draw a parallel connection to...

Look, it's not that Macbeth promises to "Make Scotland Great Again" or vows to build a wall and make the Anglo-Saxicans pay for it, it's more that Shakespeare had a real grasp on the ruthlessness of politics.  Just like Trump, Macbeth gets ahead by putting all the other Thanes in Scotland down.  Trump came up with "low-energy Jeb" and "lyin' Ted Cruz", and now he's working the "crooked Hillary" name.  Macbeth did exactly the same thing, really - he just used "Dead King Duncan" and "Dead Banquo" and then "Dead Lady MacDuff" until he became king himself.  

And then we get to the insane part - Macbeth is driven mad, first by visions of a floating dagger, then by Banquo's ghost (who can't be seen by anyone else in the room - and this was centuries before "The Sixth Sense" worked this angle...) and finally it takes MacDuff and Malcolm and an entire army sent up from England just to take Macbeth off the throne.  (and come November, it's going to take an army to knock Trump off the Republican throne - so don't forget to register...)

I'm honestly surprised that more satirists and news organizations haven't made the connection between Trump and Macbeth - it seems kind of tailor-made.  The witches' prophesies are kind of like polls, and the problem with both prophesies and polls and any kind of predicting science is that by telling the prophecy, or printing the poll results, you can change the outcome of the future.  I mean, what's the point of telling someone the future if it CAN'T be changed?  But the prophecies that Macbeth gets from the witches are like riddles, they tell him that "No man, born of woman, can defeat him" and that he'll be king "until the Great Birnham Wood comes to Dunsinane" - well, every man's born from a woman, and what are the chances of a British forest coming up to a Scottish castle?  So Macbeth believes he's in the clear - no one can defeat him, and he's going to reign for a long, long time.  

Now, if we're re-casting Donald Trump in the Macbeth role, the twist in the prophecy is quite easy - the witches (or medium, or fortune cookie, or whatever) says that no MAN can beat him in his quest for the White House, then of course he has to run against a woman. D'oh! But Shakespeare had to go a different way with it, because back then queens only got to rule if there were no male heirs, and the thought of a woman challenging Macbeth in combat was unthinkable.  

(Back then, you could also commit a murder with little chance of being caught - because there were no DNA tests, surveillance cameras, or ways to detect fingerprints.  Boy, those were the days, huh?)   

But I guess that's where the similarities end, because there's nobody that Trump has killed (that we know of...) and I doubt Melania is the Lady Macbeth type ( she?).  If she can't even write a decent speech, what's the chance of her being the mastermind behind the plan?  But I thought this Orson Welles version really minimized Lady Macbeth's role - sure, she's in on the plan, but didn't they teach us in high school that she was really the evil force behind her husband's reign?  But I guess Shakespeare was a product of his times in the end, his women are really only seen marrying men or committing suicide, sometimes both.

Macbeth's final verdict on life is that it is "a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing."  And if that doesn't call Donald Trump to mind, then I don't know what does.

Also starring Jeanette Nolan (last seen in "Psycho"), Dan O'Herlihy (last seen in "100 Rifles"), Roddy McDowall (last seen in "The Big Picture"), Edgar Barrier (last seen in "Irma la Douce"), Erskine Sanford (last seen in "The Best Years of Our Lives"), Peggy Webber (last seen in "The Wrong Man"), Keene Curtis, Alan Napier (last seen in "Julius Caesar").

RATING: 5 out of 10 oversized crowns

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