Revisiting the Classics: The Tragedy of Macbeth

  • Thursday, February 29, 2024 / 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM (PST)
  • Pollock Theater
  • Screening Format: 4K digital projection (105 minutes)
  • With Joel Coen (director) and Frances McDormand (actor)
  • Starring: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Kathryn Hunter

A favorite of filmmakers, Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been adapted for the screen many times, with some of these adaptations themselves achieving classic status. But no prior filmed version of the play quite prepares the viewer for Joel Coen’s bold and gorgeous re-imagining of the play in The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021). Featuring an extraordinary cast, including Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington as the leads, The Tragedy of Macbeth evokes both early cinema and stage history as it creates an abstract and atmospheric environment for Shakespeare’s bloody story of ambition and temptation.

Director Joel Coen and actor Frances McDormand joined moderator Jim Kearney (English, UCSB) for a post-screening discussion of The Tragedy of Macbeth.


Joel Coen headshot

Director Joel Coen

Joel Coen is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker. He and his brother Ethan have made eighteen films together, including No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Blood Simple, True Grit, The Big Lebowski, A Serious Man, Inside Llewyn Davis, Raising Arizona, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. They have won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Adapted Screenplay. Other awards include the National Board of Review, Golden Globes, BAFTA, WGA, and DGA. At Cannes, they have won Best Director three times, the Grand Prix, and the Palme D’Or. The Tragedy of Macbeth is Joel’s nineteenth feature film and his solo directorial debut.

Frances McDormand headshot

Actor Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand received a Masters in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama, and has since established a worldwide audience with roles in a wide variety of films, television streaming projects, and theater productions.

On stage, she received the Tony Award, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People. Other theater credits include her Tony-nominated performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire; The Country Girl; Caryl Churchill’s Far Away; The Sisters Rosenzweig; Awake and Sing; and again, A Streetcar Named Desire (this time as Blanche) at The Gate Theatre in Dublin. With The Wooster Group, she performed in New York City and internationally: To You, The Birdie!, North Atlantic, and Early Shaker Spirituals. She realized a long-held dream of interpreting Lady Macbeth in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s production of Macbeth.

With her company Hear/Say Productions, McDormand produced Every Secret Thing, Olive Kitteridge (nominated for thirteen Emmys, and receiving eight awards including Outstanding Limited Series and Lead Actress in a Limited Series), Nomadland (receiving the Academy Award for Best Picture), The Tragedy of Macbeth and, most recently, Women Talking.

McDormand was seen as Lady Macbeth opposite Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen. Additional film credits include her Academy Award-winning performances in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo, with three additional Oscar nominations for Mississippi Burning ̧ Almost Famous, and North Country. McDormand has appeared in five additional collaborations with the Coens: Hail, Caesar!, Burn After Reading, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Raising Arizona, and Blood Simple. Most recently, McDormand can be heard in Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of Good Omens as the Voice of God.


Moderator Jim Kearney (English, UCSB)

Jim Kearney is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He specializes in early modern literature with research interests that include ethical experience, the history of emotion, phenomenology (including the phenomenology of theater), various materialisms, religious identity and transformation, and the history of reading. He is currently finishing a book that pursues a phenomenology of ethical experience in Shakespeare’s late plays. His next research project will address dispossession in the early modern period. He is also the author of the award-winning The Incarnate Text: Imagining the Book in Reformation England (University of Pennsylvania Press); co-editor of Entertaining the Idea: Shakespeare, Philosophy, and Performance (University of Toronto Press); co-editor of a special issue of the journal Criticism on “Shakespeare and Phenomenology”; and co-editor of a forthcoming collection on Experiential & Experimental Knowledge on the Early Modern English Stage. Among other journals and collections, his essays have appeared in Criticism, ELR, JMEMS, The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare, and The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare.

This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center.

CWC Presents: Revisiting the Classics

What happens when a film becomes a “classic”? The Carsey-Wolf Center’s 2023-24 feature series Revisiting the Classics engages creatively and critically with our filmic past, approaching it with fresh eyes and novel interpretive lenses. Not simply a celebration of the “great works,” Revisiting the Classics will consider how classic texts have shaped the work of contemporary filmmakers, how complicated questions of politics and aesthetics emerge through practices of adaptation and interpretation, and how the changing landscape of film distribution, archiving, preservation, and critique affects the formation of canon and the making of new “classics.”

Storytelling for the Screen

Since their emergence, cinema and television have been in a state of constant technological and industrial flux. But even as our ways of distributing and accessing moving images have changed, and even as tastes and styles continue shifting with the times, our passion for compelling onscreen storytelling persists. At the Carsey-Wolf Center, we are committed to fostering a nuanced understanding of cinematic and televisual storytelling across genres, formats, styles, and historical periods. To this end, we sponsor a wide range of events, programs, and workshops designed to cultivate a new generation of media storytellers, and to help audiences better understand the evolving role of narrative across diverse media forms.