Tuesday, 01 August 2017 08:50

Lady Macbeth : Chilling subversion of a classic

The title sets the stage for the action that is to follow. In William Shakespeare’s widely read tragic play Lady Macbeth spearheads the action, leading Macbeth to doom as he kills King Duncan and well as Banquo.

The reason for the killings is her lust for power and position. However her soul is not laid to rest as she has nightmares and we finally hear of her suicide towards curtain call. Similar action follows in William Oldroyd’s ‘Lady Macbeth’. The setting is rural England in 1865. The young Katherine leads a loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age. Her father in law, Boris, is cold and unforgiving. His evil nature is such that she has to be forcefully kept awake one night till her husband, Alexander, comes to bed after a late night meeting.

One day both Alexander and Boris are called away on business matters. This spells freedom for Katherine. She ventures out into the wilderness, eager to explore her surroundings. The picture of her with her hair loose and scampering out into the woods reminds us of Emily Bronthe’s Katherine in Wuthering Heights.

Katherine soon encounters Sebastian who captures her interst. She embarks on a passionate affair with the young worker on her husband’s estate. With this affair a force is unleashed inside her. It is so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Similar to Shakespeare’s character, Katherine too will stoop to murder to keep Sebastian by her side. Her first victim is Boris whom she poisons over dinner. This first scene of murder - how cold bloodedly she kills him, having locked him in the next room and listens him choking to death while she makes small talk with her maid, Anna, freezes our blood. Alexander is next as she drives him into a rage by openly flaunting her affair before him. When a fight breaks out Katherine beats Alexander to death with a stick. The two bury him and kills off his horse to erase the evidence of his return. As soon as we think that things are finally settled for the lovers Teddy enters their lives.

The little boy is brought to the manor by a woman saying that he is Alexander’s offspring. Though she had her doubts at first Katherine is forced to provide shelter for the pair as they are in possession of legal documents to prove their story. Thus Sebastian once again has to be in hiding. This not only frustrates the lovers but it is also a humiliating factor for Sebastian who has been behaving like the lord of the manor till Teddy and his guardian showed up. Katherine also discovers that she is with child.

One day Teddy goes missing and is rescued by Sebastian as he is found at the edge of a waterfall. However Sebastian secretly admits to Katherine that he considered pushing in over the edge. They argue and desperate to please her lover Katherine pledges to do anything he wants. The duo smother the young lad with a pillow while he is asleep. This is the height of the horror which finally breaks Sebastian and he confesses to their crimes. However Katherine accuses him of plotting it all with Anna and the two are taken away.

Much of the film’s allure comes from its central, powerhouse performance from Florence Pugh. At 21 years she shows that she is more than a mere pretty face and dishes out a performance which is worthy of an Oscar. She is backed by some great acting by Christopher Fairbank, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie and Cosmo Jarvis.

The camera angles and presentations is brilliant as well. The fast moving pace of the story does not bore the viewers. This is movie making at its best and Oldroyd shows his brilliance in a simple yet moving manner through his masterpiece.

‘Lady Macbeth’ may be a dark and gloomy drama, but it is also a refreshing and tasteful period piece. You cannot stop grazing at its beauty although you would rather turn a blind eye on its cruelty.(Daily News)

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