Darkly comic Victorian drama featuring hypnotising newcomer Florence Pugh as a disaffected young bride
Not another spin on 'The Scottish Play', William Oldroyd’s tense, darkly comic feature debut is actually an adaptation of a 19th century Russian novella, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, the story now transported to Northern England around the same time. It’s pretty Shakespearean, though, with a dash of Flaubert, thanks to murderous intentions brought about by young bride Katherine’s displeasure with her sexless marriage and subordinate role in provincial life. More wilful sadist than a distressed damsel, Katherine offers a fine showcase for the hypnotising Florence Pugh to veer from endearing puckishness to dangerously disturbed.
Though less elemental in its visual palette, Lady Macbeth echoes Andrea Arnold’s bold adaptation of Wuthering Heights, particularly with some race-related subtext that occasionally bubbles to the surface. The juxtaposition between the freeness offered by the rural landscapes and the oppressive interior environments is also a key factor in both. Shorn of the extravagant decorations common to stately homes in most period dramas, with a chilly blankness to all its rooms, you could plausibly rename Katherine’s new home 'Abstinence'. [Josh Slater-Williams]
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