Lady Mac­beth

LADY MAC­BETH, cos­tume drama, rated R, Vi­o­let Crown, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Molly Boyle Lady Mac­beth,

Wil­liam Ol­droyd’s stun­ning first fea­ture film may be called but the lady of this house makes no bones about the blood on her hands. Adapted from Niko­lai Leskov’s 1865 novella, this scorched-earth tale of re­venge set in misty Northum­ber­land cen­ters on the fate of Kather­ine (Florence Pugh), a young woman with a sub­ver­sive smirk who is grap­pling with her new life as the ne­glected bride of a cruel, dom­i­neer­ing man twice her age. De­nied com­pan­ion­ship and fresh air, she spends her days glassy-eyed with bore­dom, rustling her taffeta skirts around a gilded cage filled with Vic­to­rian fur­ni­ture.

When her hus­band and his fa­ther (Paul Hil­ton and Christo­pher Fair­bank) leave the es­tate to tend to busi­ness, Kather­ine seizes her op­por­tu­nity, en­ter­ing into a bodice-rip­ping assig­na­tion with the earthy, sullen sta­ble­hand Se­bas­tian (Cosmo Jarvis). Af­ter their first vig­or­ous en­counter, the lady wakes alone in her sleigh bed. While her maid Anna (Naomi Ackie) opens the shut­ters to let the morn­ing sun spill into the room, Kather­ine lies in re­pose, naked un­der the sheets, her pink dress­ing gown left crum­pled on the floor. As Anna closes the door dis­creetly be­hind her, Kather­ine be­gins to gig­gle — a nasty mean-girl guf­faw that turns into a full-throated cackle of de­light. Freed by the as­ser­tion of her sex­u­al­ity, she will stop at noth­ing to pre­serve the li­ai­son.

Af­ter the men re­turn to dis­cover her in­fi­delity, her new­found lib­er­a­tion is tested — with mur­der­ous re­sults. For a short time, Kather­ine and Se­bas­tian bask in the bind­ing ro­mance of their deeds, Kather­ine smoth­er­ing his face and body in suc­cubus-like kisses while as­sur­ing him that their in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent acts are a jus­ti­fi­able means of pro­tect­ing their love. But if Lady Chat­ter­ley had sex without guilt, Kather­ine has sex with mal­ice afore­thought. Pugh’s break­out per­for­mance is sub­tle but tow­er­ing — rem­i­nis­cent of a younger Kate Winslet — and in­creas­ingly cap­ti­vat­ing as Kather­ine overtakes Se­bas­tian in her blood­lust. Her re­la­tion­ship with Anna, who she al­ter­nately uses and abuses, is all the more com­plex for its racial and class over­tones, as is her free­wheel­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with the lower-class and darker-skinned Se­bas­tian. The ar­rival of her hus­band’s young ward — the prod­uct of his own in­ter­ra­cial ren­dezvous — adds an ex­tra layer of in­trigue in the film’s dev­as­tat­ing third act.

Po­ets talk about the test of the line, in which each line of a poem is meant to stand on its own as an ex­em­plar of for­mal beauty. Ol­droyd seems to ad­here to a test of the frame, as ev­ery still in Lady Mac­beth is visually ar­rest­ing and gor­geously com­posed, from Kather­ine fall­ing over from the re­coil of a shot­gun, dressed in a blood­stained night­dress, to the mas­ter­ful fi­nal shots of her own self-reck­on­ing. Set­tling back into the draw­ing room with only her­self and her deeds to keep her com­pany, she’s again clad in iri­des­cent taffeta, not a damned spot in sight.

Bodice-rip­per: Florence Pugh and Cosmo Jarvis

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