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Lady Macbeth

Directed by William Oldroyd

UK, 2016

HOME, 4 May 2017


This is an enthralling adaptation of ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’, Nikolai Leskov’s resonant story, originally published in 1865.

The film is set about that time, but the action has been transposed to North East England, where the soon to be diabolical lady is the wife (when we first see her, a virtual serf) of a rich mine owner. Her given name here is Catherine; and that is one of a fair few echoes of Wuthering Heights. She is a young woman, her husband is old and cold and distant, and she passionately loves a stable hand, a Heathcliff-like figure.

Florence Pugh as Catherine is excellent: she plays her as a free spirited and warm hearted girl-child at odds with the bleak world she finds herself in. Then she turns bad.

Despite the English setting, the film remains true to Leskov’s vision. He is an undeservedly neglected writer, not read much nowadays, and, with reference to his qualities, suffice it to say that Walter Benjamin was an enthusiastic admirer and his essay ‘The Storyteller’ concerns itself (in the main) with Leskov’s work.

I enjoyed this film a lot.