Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lady Macbeth

Sunday night I went to the Broadway, as I often do on a Sunday night, to see Lady Macbeth.  My friend saw this film at Sundance and gave it a very unfavorable review (even going so far as to call it "indie rubbish" which has become a bit of an inside joke with us) while another friend loved it, hailing it as a masterpiece.  After viewing this film myself, my reaction falls somewhere in between.  Katherine (a mesmerizing Florence Pugh) is forced into an arranged marriage with a much older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton), who shows very little interest in her.  Alexander's father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank), continually reminds her of her marital duty which is, namely, to provide them with a legitimate heir, and he also mistreats her.  She is kept to a very rigid schedule and is never allowed outside of the house.  When both Alexander and Boris are called away, she takes advantage of the opportunity and roams the countryside.  She also begins a passionate affair with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a groomsman on the estate.  When Boris returns, he hears about the affair, which has been conducted very openly, and has Sebastian beaten and locked up.  Katherine poisons Boris so she can be with Sebastian, showing very little remorse.  As is often the case, they are forced to commit several more murders (including a particularly egregious one) in order to keep up pretenses and Sebastian begins to feel more and more guilty.  There are a few things I really liked about this film but there are definitely some aspects that I didn't enjoy.  I was quite impressed by Florence Pugh's performance as a woman who will go to any lengths to keep her newfound freedom and her journey is very compelling, at least in the beginning.  I was on the edge of my seat most of the time and the eerie silence on screen added greatly to my unease.  I also think that William Oldroyd made some very interesting choices; for example, highly composed shots of Katherine sitting on a couch wearing a buttoned up dress and corset with her hair tightly coiled juxtaposed with beautiful shots of her roaming the moor unbound with her hair blowing in the wind are highly effective at establishing her motivation.  However, some of his choices are less effective.  I found the scenes involving a cat to be completely bewildering.  I am sure that these scenes are meant to be artistic but the symbolism was lost on me because the cat disappears after a few early scenes never to be seen again.  Why?  Another problem I had was that, while I sympathized with Katherine in the first half of the film because of her ill-treatment, I found many of her actions in the latter half to be completely reprehensible.  She ends up being more ruthless than her oppressors, particularly to her maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie).  I had to look away during a scene involving a horse and the final murder (which went on for so long) of an innocent child was especially brutal.  The ambiguous ending did not hold her to account for her actions in a way that brought me satisfaction.  Finally, I don't know if it is just me but I thought there was a racist undertone to this film.  There is absolutely no discussion of race but all of the characters portrayed by black actors end up as victims and it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Hmmm.  Have you seen this film?  What did you think?

Note:  This film is not based on William Shakespeare's Scottish play (as I originally thought) but, rather, on the novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov.

1 comment:

  1. Fair review. There is definitely a racist undertone to the film and also their affair starts with rape which is super strange


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