Film Review – Lady Macbeth

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In association with the GFT

The name “Lady Macbeth” carries a lot of baggage – connotations of violent passions, unchecked cruelty and manic self-centeredness. It’s a perfect fit for this film. This release, which was based on the novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, involves all of these elements but transforms the story with a Gothic retelling in an English manor house in the 19th century.  It also presents the story from our murderess’ side and explains why she feels driven to commit despicable acts, offering a dark but somewhat empathetic perspective.

Katherine Lester is a young girl confined to a loveless marriage with a distant older man, unsatisfied with her prison-like existence. She attempts to rebel against her captivity by taking pleasure in nature, yet this isn’t enough to cope with her extreme isolation. Although the land is unforgiving and bleak, this represents the only available escape from the slow death of lethargy – that is, until the love interest Sebastian arrives. Once the affair begins, the couple go to extremes to ensure that they aren’t torn apart.

Florence Pugh plays an excellently ruthless Katherine, while Cosmo Jarvis’ Sebastian is a fascinating blend of sadistic and spineless.  Race is the ever-present elephant in the room, within both the power differential between the couple and the routine humiliations of the black maid Anna (played compellingly by Naomi Ackie), which were some of the harder scenes to sit through.

This is a very still film – dialogue is kept to a minimum and the short sharp spells of action are spread out by long periods of solitude. The claustrophobia of Katherine, our Lady Macbeth, is depicted to a near-uncomfortable level. The colours are muted and we only ever see the marital house and surrounding moors. It could almost be a world of its own, cut adrift from everything else.

Lady Macbeth explores the depths to which people can sink when they feel trapped and alone, and when obsession overwhelms compassion. There is no redeeming chance of freedom in this world, just an indestructible cage.

This film will be screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre from the 28th of April to the 4th of May, tickets are available here:

The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here:

[Louise Wylie – @WomanPendulum]

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