Friday, January 26, 2018

Lady Macbeth . . . or is she?

Lady Macbeth. Dir. William Oldroyd. Perf. Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, and Paul Hilton. 2016. DVD. Lionsgate, 2017.

In his great Shakespeare on film classification system (for which, q.v.), Kenneth Rothwell mentions films that are "parasitical" of Shakespeare. I think this film goes in that category.

I spotted this film, and thought we might be treated to a retelling of Macbeth from Lady Macbeth's perspective.

The quote on the cover should have tipped me off: "Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights."

The story is very sparsely told—as if it were an Ernest Hemingway screenplay—with lots of lengthy scenes with no dialogue, as in the image above. It's the story of a woman who is disgusted with her distant and unloving husband, takes a lover from among his workers, and then (sorry if this is a spoiler) kills a bunch of people to try to cover up the affair and to keep her lover.

At first, I thought the writers were just grabbing the name Lady Macbeth to give the main character a sense of coldness and murderousness (even though Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's play never participates in any actual violence). Then I realized that the film is a derivative version of Nikolai Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which Dmitri Shostakovich famously made into an opera (Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, variously translated as Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk or Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District). The film Siberian Lady Macbeth, directed by Andrzej Wajda, was also based on the work.

The film, therefore, has a longer history than I realized.

But it also doesn't really have any connection to Shakespeare.  Sorry.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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