Title: Lady MacBeth
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: William Oldroyd
Writer: Alice Birch
based on LADY MACBETH OF MTSENSK by Nikolai Leskov
Music: Dan Jones
Cinematography: Ari Wegner
Debut film from UK director William Oldroyd, LADY MACBETH is a perfervid reinterpretation of Nikolai Leskov’s literature warhorse, which is transposed to a rural England in the 19th century.
The young woman in question is Katherine (Pugh), on her wedding night, her mixed conjugal feeling of excitation, trepidation and expectation starkly plunges into blank disappointment by the standoffish maneuver from her much older husband Alexander (Hilton). Whereupon subjugated to a loveless marriage and the surface duty as a decorous showpiece by her martinet father-in-law Boris (Fairbank), who has bought her to marry his son, the headstrong, unsatisfied Katherine will turn seriously homicidal in securing her sexual fulfillment with a low-class groom Sebastian (singer-songwriter Cosmos Jarvis).
While navigating the narrative’s lean, frugally presented structure, Oldroyd vigorously charts the triple “father, husband, son” elimination procedures as the consecutive obstructions at loggerheads with Katherine and Sebastian’s not-too-secretive assignations with unsparing directness and compulsive momentum, especially when “the son” chapter transpires, it wonderfully sheds light on both the raison d’être of this doomed arranged marriage in the first place (an imperative to paper over a scandalous miscegenation) and Alexander’s wayward refusal to consummate it, everything makes sense at that stage, but Katherine has way passed the point of no return, and when her relationship with Sebastian festers under the duress of guilt, disgust and obviously, too much blood on their hands, Oldroyd goes off the beaten track to incarnate a revolutionary aftermath that empowers the birth of a nefarious woman, for which a society entrenched with feudal formalities and patriarchal superiority is answerable in every respect.
Conceiving a neat and orderly strategy in arranging its puritanical but cunning period setting and sepulchral landscape (configured with a slender pick of incidental music), LADY MACBETH offers an immensely gratifying viewing experience, and preponderantly flourishes on the strength of its magnificent leading lady, the 19-year-old newcomer Florence Pugh, whose transubstantiation from a boredom-riddled virgin to a pertinacious temptress is utterly vivifying, and revels in her dexterous juggling with precocious impertinence, voracious desire and callous determination, all leading to that final flinty about-face which substantiates that she is here to stay, woe betide anyone standing in her way!
Lastly, acting debutante Naomi Ackie also giving a heads-turning performance, as the obedient, tremulous housemaid Anna, who is the closest witness of Katherine’s (wrong)doings, and ostensibly wielding the moral compass for viewers when she is seemingly stuck by a selective muteness, but in Oldroyd’s acute refutation of self-imposed victimology, her abject, animalistic status (referred both by her superior and peer in difference occasions) is not a merit of sympathy, if she is unable to speak out the truth, she might just as well becomes a befitting scapegoat of this amoral, but incredibly cogent post-modern parable, the harbinger of a new name worth being reckoned with in the future.
referential film: Andrea Arnold’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS (2011, 6.2/10)