Lady MacBeth

July 31, 2017 at 8:54 am | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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Based on the 1865 Russian novella, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” this grim little film hews closely to the first two thirds of the original story before diverging wildly for its final scenes. This story has been made into film 5 times since 1927, though this is the first one in English. Director William Oldroyd (in his feature film debut) has set this version in rural 19th Century England. The story centers on the titular character, named Katherine in this version, and her less-than-healthy relationships with the various males in her life. This is a dark and ugly story with remnants of the class injustice and nihilism you might expect from a Russian work. Oldroyd understands that and magnifies the mood with his choice of scenery, color, and sound. The empty heaths and cold stone house lend a sense of lonely despair to the whole film. The scenery, walls, furniture and clothing are all in shades of brown, black or white, with the exception of Katherine who often wears a deep blue dress, accenting how much she doesn’t belong in this world. The musical score is sparse and large portions of the film pass in silence as people share their despair, rage, and impotence with scornful looks rather than words. The film really hinges on the powerful performance of Florence Pugh as Katherine. Pugh had only done one feature length film before but this one could help her break through. She brought a cold, steely determination to Katherine that helped root the entire film. If there is a reason to see this film, it would be her performance. But I was also left wondering if that was enough. This is a grim story that reaches its grim conclusion without much respite along the way. If you are in the mood for that sort of thing, then I think this film was fairly well done. I don’t think anyone would call it a masterpiece but it sets its teeth, bares down and does its job.



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