Monday, August 7, 2017

Lady Macbeth: Movie Review



   


A dark and twisted tale of love and murder.
Lady Macbeth is a film deserving of its namesake, in that there are no likable characters. This is a film filled with sociopathic people completely devoid of empathy – and yet there is something compelling about the murderess protagonist. The film itself is based on the Russian novella "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District" (which of course borrows its title from the Shakespearean character), although veers significantly from the original material. 2016

Directed by: William Oldroyd

Screenplay by: Alice Birch
Based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov

Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis

Katherine (Florence Pugh) has entered into a marriage, not of convenience, or arrangement, but ownership. Her new father-in-law literally purchased her to bear an heir for his son. Some strict rules come with this – namely she’s not allowed to go outside the house and must be alert and stay up for her husband at all times. This has some interesting implications. My first thought was that they were contradictory – fresh air and outside activity is way more conducive to being alert and refreshed, but perhaps that is too medically advanced for the mid-to-late 1800s. Boris has other implications in mind for keeping her in the house, but that is best left unknown.

Through Katherine’s boredom, she starts becoming a lot more assertive: speaking openly with her chamber-maid, eating what she wants, and seemingly unconcerned with some of her husband’s strange desires. But when the husband’s away, the wife will play. Katherine ventures outside. While I think most of this movie is best if kept in the dark, let’s make one thing clear, Katherine’s safety is not a concern. She makes some very drastic choices, and with each act becomes further removed from a character we would want to follow.

The themes include the role of women in society, but more importantly, in the household, and very significantly, the relationships with servants. It’s a story about murder, and oddly enough, love. Katherine would insist that everything she did she did for love, but I and many other characters in the movie would disagree.

There are a number of things that stand out about this film. Interestingly, how efficiently you can create a period piece. A house with some antique furniture, a corset and some period-appropriate clothes, and from there, you just have to create the characters. It is very impressive how this film established its world with so little. The lack of score and other ‘frills’ only heightens the intensity of Katherine’s depravity. It’s a film which really pulls you in with its uniqueness, but at the same time, the viewer can feel quite detached. It’s dark and twisted and interesting, and emotionless.


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