It is based on a title of clear Shakespearian echoes, whose literary origin is based on a novel of the Russian writer Nikolá Leskov (Lady Macbeth de Mtsenks of 1865, transformed in homóima opera by Shostakovich in 1934 and adapted already for the cinema in 1961 by the recently deceased Andrzej Wajda as Lady Macbeth in Siberia), debutant William Oldroyd orchestrates a piece of sneaky literary camera with the umbrella producer of the BBC: what could be considered a pièce bien faite.
Nevertheless, Oldroyd manages to avoid falling into mere academicism, both formal and conceptual. Taking advantage of the boom of history in its broadest sense (literary, cinematographic, as an element of mix and mixtification), uses the literary alibi as a mere McGuffin to navigate the waters of artistic fashion, at the same time as Presents an amendment to the ideological and formal totality that hides behind this revival of the nineteenth century.
And in this his deshistorizador or, better, trashistorizador, it manages better and with more soltura the reins of the saying, the staging, the perspective and the glance that the statement, the script from which to subvert the discourse of deep Victorian roots against That the director stands. To bring out what was beating under the robes of the Victorian world, so acclaimed and vindicated today, in times of turbulence and class struggle without apparent classes, as a historical period where the bourgeois pax reached its zenith and the world had safe And vigorous values on which to stand; Undermining the false world of appearances, Victorian double morality (something in which English free cinema deepened in the sixties of the last century) is the ultimate goal of this film, as well as denounce the persistence of certain atavisms – Congenitally to English society.
The story of Katherine, the protagonist, is braided from one of the common places of the nineteenth-century novelistic: the subject of unsatisfied woman and, as a corollary, adultery. A bad marriage, concerted and not based on love, causes a rupture of the institution of marriage, subverts bourgeois morality.
However, it will not be the bobarysmo the trigger of the conflict here. Katherine does not crave a literaturized world, she is not a quixotic heroine who aspires to materialize a romantic love model from her bookish fantasies. The transgressions of Emma Bobary or Ana Ozores or Ana Karenina started from a longing for romantic, idealistic realization: transgression pursued loving fullness.
The script of the film obliterates this old and obsolete section, replacing it with the yearning for power that symbolizes the name of the title: Lady Macbeth, a lady of the 21st century, a woman who longs to fulfill and obtain that love through the carnal encounter, Although the desire has been the trigger of his ambition of power; The desire and the frustration that condemns the attitude of her husband, reluctant to have sex with his wife.
The double Victorian morality begins to be dismantled: marriage and sexual pleasure are antithetical aspects, that is, pleasure is denied to (bourgeois) woman. The attitude of the husband of Katherine is inexplicable and it transpires or certain homosexuality or certain paraphilia. When she makes her strip naked on her wedding night, she gazes at her and lies down, turning her back and turning off the light, while she stands naked, it is a statement of intent that arouses doubt in the viewer. This doubt increases when, later, in an almost analogous sequence, the husband forces her to undress and face the wall, while he, sprawled in an armchair, begins to masturbate (out of plane).
This mechanism, to place out of field many of the elements that had to be nodal in a story of realistic classic court; These ellipsis are the best of the staging, which are complemented by an opposite mechanism: the repetition and parallelism of a series of scenes, such as the protagonist sitting on a couch, in his formal bourgeois wife’s attire, looking To camera, showing us his disgust; Her repeated awakening in her bed, she alone, while the maid opens the windows of the window; His walks by that sort of landing-hall that separates the upper floor from the lower part of the house; The action of dressing and stuffing, with the help of her maid, among the corsets and other pieces that imprison her body (in a sequence that seems a tracing of What the wind took, when Scarlet is being cloistered in her dress by Mammy ); Family meals, with his father-in-law especially; The planes drawn from behind the back of Katherine’s neck, showing the hold of her gathered hair in a bun, synecdoche of her social subjection.
All this first section is the most successful of the film: the verbal parsimony is compensated by a sober and austere narration, reflecting the hypocritical severity of a society and a modus vivendi in which the woman was a more adornment, bought to enhance the Home as decorative porcelain which, in the end, should prolong the progeny and surname. Certain elements acquire even a symbolic character, like a cat that swarms around and from that, unfortunately, halfway through the screen, the script ignores, incomprehensibly, it.
Katherine’s repudiation will force her to get rid of the strong markings on her face: everyone wants to make her a delicate and fragile piece of decoration, but she refuses, arguing for her strong physique and strong, untamed character as we will see. The conflict will be unleashed by the contemplation of a scene starring the day laborers of the estate in which Katherine remains secluded: the cries of a maid, about to suffer an “aggression, sexual game ?, awaken their desire. There he looks at Sebastian, who looks after the stables, and apparently if not the romantic crush, yes a sexual passion overflowed: here is the tribute of the script to his update.
Without much more preamble, Sebastian will enter Katherine’s room and force her, initiating a pseudoclandestine relationship. The bourgeois woman, then, has a relationship with someone of a lower social status, a topic that would later lead to the novel by DH Lawrence Lady Chaterlley’s lover (1928), but Emily Brönte Had tried in his novel Wuthering Heights (1847).
There is no doubt that the director has been drenched in the latest film versions of the novels of the Brönte sisters when planning their staging. In fact, the adaptation of Wuthering Heights that in 2011 directed Andrea Arnold flies in some respects, such as that Arnold would show a Heathcliff colored, black, to remarke and update the underlying transgression in the novel. Now, Sebastian’s character is half-Latin, half-Arab, almost half-breed, contrasting with the pale, untainted whiteness of his Anglo-Saxon lords. Arnold also turned the landscape into a further diegetic element, as here, where nature, the wilderness moor, and the English countryside are a reflection in their nakedness, in the sound of the wind and river waters, of the severity of the Protestant spirit , Of the lack of affection and tenderness that inhabits it.
The sounds of nature must compensate for the absence of musical accompaniment, which only materializes in very rare and atonal exceptions. It will be that cruel severity as an excuse for Katherine to unleash her passion and the strength that constitutes her, getting rid of all obstacles that prevent her from channeling her unbridled love passion in a modern sense: carnal and spiritual. Also the house and its furniture is a reflection of this severity: the sober becomes almost Zolian naturalism, unbreakable atmosphere that propitiates the crime of passion.
The story of the script resents when, after Katherine’s ostentation of strength and power (gets rid of her father-in-law and her husband), she succumbs to the irruption of a pupil (a small child, also colored, But legally recognized by her husband) and her grandmother, who appropriated the territory that so much effort has cost her to conquer our protagonist.