Macbeth (1971): Polanski’s Version, Starring Jon Finch and Francesca Annis

Roman PolanskiĀ  directed Macbeth (aka The Tragedy of Macbeth), a 1971 historical drama, co-written by Polanski and British critic Kenneth Tynan.

A film adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, it tells the story of the Highland lord who becomes King of Scotland through treachery and murder.

The film stars Jon Finch as the title character and Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth, noted for their relative youth as actors.

Themes of historic recurrence, greater pessimism and internal ugliness in physically beautiful characters are added to Shakespeare’s story of corruption, greed, and moral decline, which is presented in a more realistic style.

Polanski’s adaptation of Macbeth was seen at the time as a means of coping with the highly publicized Manson Family murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969.

Unable to get backing from major studios, the production was funded by Playboy Enterprises.

The shoot was troubled by poor weather around the British Isles.

Macbeth was screened out of competition at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.

The film was controversial for its depictions of graphic violence and nudity, but has received generally positive reviews since its release, and was named Best Film by the National Board of Review (NBR)

It was a commercial failure in the United States.

Finch would score a success in the following year, after appearing in Hitchcock’s thriller, Frenzy.