Lady Macbeth: Film reviewby Gemma Gracewood
Directed by William Oldroyd
Opening with the wedding of 17-year-old Katherine to a much older man (she has been sold to him with a small parcel of land), Lady Macbeth is a bloody relief after decades of pleasantly boring Downton Abbey-style period dramas. In Katherine’s first bedroom conversation with her new husband, we see the sparks of a passionate and self-respecting young woman; within minutes, her strong will and ripe-as-a-peach sensuality are cruelly suppressed, and her sole chore seems to be to sit around indoors, trussed up in a corset, waiting to deliver an heir to the household. There’s no piano, no needlepoint, no visiting sisters. The silence is ominous.
When her husband and father-in-law go away for an extended period, Katherine goes exploring, ending up at the stables, where some weird hanky-panky is going down. One thing leads to another and soon hunky-yet-dim estate worker Sebastian (he puts the “thick” in Gothic horror) is in her room trying to rape her, until she lunges lustily at him, which is all very distasteful, but not nearly as bad as what’s to come.
This unnerving tale of oppression, obsession and privilege, adapted from the Nikolai Leskov novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, is sparingly directed in a stylish debut by William Oldroyd. His master stroke is the casting of Florence Pugh as Katherine, with a particular nod to costume designer Holly Waddington for the chillingly extravagant blue dress Katherine wears, a material prison for her lush young skin.
Lady Macbeth holds back on the soundtrack, too, so that we may take our time figuring out what to feel. And what we might feel is complicated. Even while we may cheer for her as she devises ways to subvert her circumstances, we reel in horror at what it means for those around Katherine: her black maid, her lower-class lover, a visiting child. Intersectional feminism, this ain’t. The freedom of a white woman always comes at somebody else’s cost.
Opens September 28
This is published in the September- October 2017 issue of Metro.
I predicted Bill English would lose the election and the winner would be Winston Peters. But no forecaster, including the PM, predicted her pregnancy.Read more
New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.Read more
For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.Read more
More than one million images from Rykenberg Photography, taken around Auckland, are now in the Auckland Libraries Collection. But who are the people?Read more
A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to find his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.Read more
There's a growing movement to stop the amount of wasteful plastic that goes into our oceans, but what about the tiny bits we can hardly see?Read more
The inconvenience to chlorine refuseniks is tiny compared with the risk of more suffering and tragedy from another Havelock North-style contamination.Read more