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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 21, 2020



‘LADY MACBETH’ is a British film on HBO not based on the character created by Shakespeare but on the 1865 novella of Russian author Nikolai Leskov, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”. It’s about a young woman who’s sold into marriage to a cruel man twice her age.

It has been turned into an opera by Shostakovich and now, after more than 150 years, it’s been made into a movie and the setting is transported to England by Director William Oldroyd. 

The movie opens with Katherine (Florence Pugh, who we’re beginning to love more and more after “Little Women” and “Little Drummer Girl”) being wed at 17 to the much older Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton). 

They live at the huge estate of her father in law, Boris (Christopher Fairbank), in Northumberland. Both her husband and father in law are very controlling and oppressive. She’s not at allowed at all to go out and she is obviously trapped, like her own body in the tight corsets she is made to wear. 

Boris wants her to give Alexander a son but her husband doesn’t seem to be interested in having sex with her and just ogles at her naked body. You know she’ll rebel sooner or later. 

And it does happen when Alexander had to leave their estate for a business trip and Boris later also leaves, so Katherine is left alone in their huge mansion for the first time. 

She finally gets the chance to explore the outside world and go to the moors to alleviate her boredom. Coming home from her walks one day, she chances upon the farmhands in their estate trying to rape her maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie). 

She reprimands them but one of the men, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a strapping groomsman, intrigues her for being so brazen, showing no respect to her at all. Soon, she invites him to her bed and they become lustful lovers on a wild romp.

We’ll stop recounting here what happens in the movie. Suffice it to say that the progression of Katherine’s misdeeds go from bad to worse in this very flawed character. 

The story that starts as a seemingly genteel drama evolves into a story of a seemingly helpless young woman who takes extreme drastic measures to assert herself. 

The horror of it all is the way that Pugh manages to strangely sustain her character’s being a somewhat sympathetic figure, even when the acts she commits become increasingly darker and more horrifying. 

She truly becomes as ruthless as the Shakespearean character she’s named after. 

In the end, she might get the empowerment and liberation she wants as a one-woman wrecking crew, but at what a hefty cost? 

The director chooses to tell her story in a very stark, austere way. Even the sprawling moors where Katherine saunters has a grimy, bleak beauty, reminiscent of the atmospheric brooding moors in “Wuthering Heights”. 

The musical score is also spare, even the sound design. We think this is deliberate to heighten the ferocious presence and acting of Pugh as herself being an immutable and passionate force of nature to reckon with.