‘I’m thick-skinned’, she warns her vile husband after the
ceremony. And so she proves to be; but she’s constantly writhing around inside
that skin, alive to her own desires and how they might be fulfilled. Pugh
embodies her contradictions and depths with impressive minimalism, making Katherine
curious, cruel, disdainful, joyous, mischievous, sloppy, ruthless and proud –
an achievement all the more impressive considering how sparse, functional and
non-Shakespearian the script is.
The film is based on the mid-19th century Russian novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk Region, a kind of eastern European Madame Bovary – a trapped, provincial woman, her passions, and the ensuing tragedy. The story is brought to the screen by upcoming English director William Oldroyd.
In the film, Katherine is explicitly the property of a bilious, sneering
father-son duo. Along with a plot of land in north-east England, Katherine has
been sold to miserly magnate Boris and pressganged into marriage the miserly,
middle-aged Alexander. Neither man seems satisfied by the deal, and, for unknown
reasons – sexuality, perhaps, or some nameless hang-up – Alexander has no
interest in bedding his young bride.
This only adds to Katherine’s dissatisfactions. Forbidden to go outside, she’s obliged to spend her days in a sexless, sofa-bound
stupor. Sometimes she makes a half-hearted attempt to be the lady of the house,
but such a lusty child of the wet and wild moorland can’t be content with
prayer books and tea.
Florence Pugh as Katherine and Cosmo Jarvis as Sebastian
Hence her affair with the property’s new groomsman.
Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) is a rogue so sooty and grimy that it’s hard to tell
where his black beard ends and his face begins. He’s black-eyed too, and
possibly black-hearted, although – as it turns out – there are different shades
of cardiological darkness, and the inkiest inclinations can be sequestered
under the most porcelain breast. It’s not long before Katherine and Sebastian’s
sexual transgression leads to violence, with someone muttering the immortal
words ‘it is done...!’
Like The Handmaiden, Lady Macbeth is an arty bodice-ripper that, while never skimping on the tightness of the bodices or the pleasure of the ripping, also delves into the psychological underpinnings of the genre. As with Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece, Oldroyd’s film examines the stifling of female desire while giving the satisfaction of letting that desire cut loose. In this sense, his merciless film would be empty without Pugh and her self-possession. She is its beating black heart.
|What||Lady Macbeth film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
28 Apr 17 – 28 Jun 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|