And Lady Macbeth

By | July 28, 2017

Perhaps it’s best not to read the literary inspiration for Lady Macbeth, Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, before watching the film. Doing so will only accentuate the kind of psychological acuity that is sorely missing from William Oldroyd’s vacuous adaptation.

Though Oldroyd and screenwriter Alice Birch have transposed Leskov’s novella from 19th-century Russia, to 19th-century England, the characters and situations are basically the same. Katerina Ismailov has become Katherine (Florence Pugh), and she’s still trapped in a loveless arranged marriage to gruff Alexander (Paul Hilton).

She finds a deliverance from her boredom in farmhand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), with whom she carries on a torrid love affair that she eventually tries to hold onto by committing a series of murders against the family members that have suppressed her.

And Lady Macbeth explores many of the same themes of Leskov’s work—in particular, the stifling effect that patriarchal norms have on women who are expected to be little more than subordinates to their husbands and bearers of their children, and the way this particular female descends into violent amorality in her bid to challenge such expectations.

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