Lady Macbeth Movie Review
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19th Century, England. Newly married, the bride attempts to settle in to her quarters. The servants ask her repeatedly if she is too cold. She insists that she is not. Her new husband forbids her to venture outside and that her health depends on her remaining indoors and away from the elements. Before retiring for the night, the husband demands that the wife remove her nightgown and stand at the foot of their bed, while he turns over to sleep. This series of moments becomes a prelude for the story that follows. ‘A woman scorned’ takes on a cold, new meaning in Lady Macbeth.
For the first several days, Katherine (Florence Pugh) develops and follows a respectful and dignified routine. She begins her day at the same time every morning, then seats herself, rigidly positioned, on the same centralized Federal style sofa. She sits, patiently, for her husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) to return home. When Alexander arrives, he is typically moody and takes out his frustration on Katherine. Alexander’s father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank), supports his son and demands respect and obedience from Katherine at all times. When Alexander has to leave on an extended business trip, Katherine’s eyes begin to wander toward Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the hired hands. Katherine has an affair with Sebastian, and they choose not to act with discretion. Anna (Naomi Ackie), a servant who tends to Katherine, is ever observant and has a role in complicating this new courtship.
Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. This is director William Oldroyd’s feature film debut, as he has also completed three short films to date.
To fully enjoy this film, it makes more sense to sympathize with Katherine’s situation over her character. Even with the passage of time, it still seems like more time has passed where Katherine has been on her own then when her husband was still with her. There is little to no film scoring, although a noticeably foreboding and darkened score blankets the final scene, intense enough to become chilling. It would seem the purpose of this film is more to explore the treatment and roles of women in the 19th century, than to conjure empathy toward Katherine or any other character. Similar to films released in the past, where the content includes the mistreatment and subservience of women, there is that moment when a female character finally experiences her freedom – she will then do anything possible not to lose that freedom. Lady Macbeth may not leave you morally satisfied, but it will certainly appease your appetite.