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The opening scene of Macbeth and its cinematic adaptations (Throne of blood, Polanskis Macbeth and Maqbool

A cinematic reading of Shakespeare is difficult to pertain as a large volume of criticism on it exists in itself. An adaptation involves the ideological connotations of a film-maker and relies on its socio-cultural associations with the audience. Thus when Akira Kurosawa, Roman Polanski or Vishal bharadwaj adapts Macbeth, it becomes their own creation elevating them as the new authors. An adaptation is unable to solve the purist problem as it can never retain its purity or faithfulness to the original text. This is because adaptation implies a relocation or recontextualization of the text. Thus Maqbool projecting the underpinning of underworld in Mumbai or Throne of Blood presenting the feudal Japan during the civil wars create a new diagetic code altogether. A cinematic adaptation of a text is transference from a verbal to a visual medium. But in case of drama, its from one visual medium to another. Cinema has a different narrative structure accompanied by visuals unlike a play where visual effects are mostly created with the help of language by using metaphors. According to post structuralism language plays the most important role in the text. Roland Barthes, in his essay The Death of the Author (1968) declares that author is the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology. Barthes replaces author by scriptor who is not a bundle of passions and impressions but the owner of an immense dictionary. Thus when the film makers Vishal Bharadwaj and Akira Kurosawa craft Macbeth in their own languages, they generate their own authorship bestowing a different form of purity to the text making it independent from the Shakespearean tragedy. However Polanski keeps the Shakespearean language intact and creates a diagetic code solely based on the semiotic non verbal elements. A diachronic study of Macbeth positions the adaptations in acceptable social milieus and the political implications of the respected time periods. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606. It is important to consider the political context in which it was written, as that is the key to the main theme of the play. Throne of blood (1957) projects the feudal Japan during the civil wars and the military strives. Polanskis Macbeth (1971), though portrays a traditional Macbeth, it epitomizes a disturbing version of the original play with dark overtone of gross brutality and nudity which was undoubtedly colored with the personal bereavement and his psychological depression. Maqbool (2003) emerges as the paradigm of modern Mumbai illustrating the politics of the under world. Shakespeares Macbeth has instigated voluminous criticism on its opening scene (Act I, Scene I). Shakespeare provides a somewhat Aristotelian beginning where the witches are seen in medias res of their conversation providing choric information about the battle being fought and their future meeting with Macbeth. The deserted battlefield, the topsyturvy weather with thunder and lightning, their dialogues in wayward rhythm, all prepare us for a drama in which a human soul succumbs to the supernatural suggestions of evil and ranges itself along with the witches on the devils side. This scene serves as the prologue of the play and the penultimate line Fair is foul, and foul is fair becomes the governing ideology of the play. The weird sisters act as the embodiment of fate and destiny popular in the Greek tragedies. In the filmic adaptations, this scene had to execute a similar effect on its audience. For critiquing the adaptations of the first scene in all the three movies i.e. Throne of blood, Polanskis Macbeth & Maqbool, a formalist analysis of the semiotic details would be adequate. Kurosawa makes explicit use of visuals and sounds to convey his notions in the opening scene. The scene opens on a bleak setting of a series of mountains shrouded with fog. The camera pans through the entire region exhibiting its profound desolation. The use of wind as the background score creates an uneasiness which gets intensified with the chanting of the chorus and use of music that establishes a fearful atmosphere. The fog adds a feeling of uncertainty. The unknown chorus functions as the prologue. The fact that the physicality of the witches is negated embodies the

uncertainty of the line: Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Question arises that do these voices belong to the witches? Then where are they? The fog becomes literal establishing doubt and unease in the audience. The panning of camera continues in the meantime. As the chorus chants in Japanese, Behold within this place now desolated, Stood once a mighty fortress. Lived a proud warrior murdered by ambition the camera pans alongside the slope of a mountain guiding into a grave, thus signifying the downfall of Macbeth. Kurosawa blends theatre with cinema using metaphor on a different level through the totality of his presentation. The influence of the Noh music constructs a parallel between the theme of Macbeth and the medieval Japan in which Kurosawa stations his film. The chorus eventually is not only about Macbeth. It acts as a metonymy denoting the rivalry of different regimes during the Onin War. Fog also has a cinematic purpose of time travel. The chorus chants about a warrior and the fog takes the audience in his era. When it comes to Polanski, he relies only on the natural sounds and hence focusing entirely on the visuals for deciphering the first scene. Polanski chose a grey, rain-swept beach as his locale which mirrored his turmoil as a result of his personal loss. The camera is focused on the sky as it dawns and unlike Shakespeare who preferred a topsy-turvy ness of weather, Polanskis version presents a clear sky. The calmness in the weather is probably relevant only as an indication of an upcoming storm. The witches arrive but they are only partly visible. The camera zooms out to present all the three witches involved in a witch-craft. The extreme close-up used to show the ingredients of their witch-craft establish their importance as witches. Shakespeares Macbeth had no mention of any witch-craft in the opening scene but Polanski introduces it to accustom his audience with the brutality that would follow. Considering the items of witch-craft, the calmness of the weather only appears ironical. Polanski uses repulsive signifiers creating an atmosphere of terror and disgust. The shot projecting the falcon in the sky, the nook, the cut portion of hand, the dagger, the blood, all are suggestions of the future. Polanski forms a different ideology with these signifiers. His version of Macbeth accordingly can also be said to have a choric beginning. The witches utter Fair is foul, and foul is fair in the very beginning which was not the case in the original text. The hand holding the dagger and the nook are manifestations of Macbeths deeds. Like Kurosawa, Polanski also uses fog but he uses it to change the scene and take his audience to the battle field. Vishal Bharadwaj introduces an Indian Macbeth in his Maqbool dealing with an entirely different social milieu than that of Shakespeare. The politics of Mumbai based underworld and the Hindu-Muslim diagetic code acts as its central theme. Bharadwaj has a different ideology which is reflected in Maqbool. The witches in Shakespeare determine the politics of the state from the margin, subverting the patriarchal dominance. Bharadwaj creates a derivative discourse functioning at two distinct levels in his treatment of the witches. He creates gender ambivalence. The opening scene focuses on the two corrupt male police officers who are the equivalent of the three witches. On one hand, the two corrupted officers purohit and pandit control the underworld politics from the periphery as did the witches. On the other hand, they are Hindu by religion and manipulate the incidents of the Muslim underworld. The scene opens in thunder and rain as Shakespeare prescribed. On the window of a police van, a horoscope (janam patri) is being drawn by one of the cops. As in Macbeth, the scene opens in medias res as the drunken cops babble about the encounter of a traitor, comparable to the war in Macbeth. The horoscope is of Mumbai which is destined to be ruled by Maqbool. A number of shots show the dialogues between Maqbool and the cops and results in the encounter of the other traitor who was so far being terrorized by the two of them. Mumbai plays an important role in Bharadwajs version. The blood stained horoscope of Mumbai epitomizes the fate of Maqbool. Bharadwaj uses a blue tone creating an ambience of mystery in his use of light and darkness.

To conclude, the adaptations of Macbeth by these three different authors (film makers) deal with their different social milieus and distinctive ideologies, but the first scene bears an adaptive unity and analogy with the Shakespearean text in maintaining the Aristotelian beginning of the Greek tragedies by using chorus to predict the progress of action.