Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Florence Pugh, Christopher Fairbanks, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie, Bill Fellows, Paul Hilton, Golda Rosheuvel, Ian Cunningham, Fleur Houdijk, Rebecca Manley, Kema Sikazwe, David Kirkbride, Joseph Teague, Cliff Burnett, Anton Palmer.
The allusion to begin with may make the viewer, the voyeur of the story, think of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the poor young girl married off to an uncaring man against her will, purchased as a piece of meat, a commodity as loved as a storm driven day on the Yorkshire Moors, or even one that might have come straight out of Wuthering Heights, a Victorian melodrama based on social hypocrisy, the class system, the deep rooted racism and moral sexism. Whilst it retains all these aspects to it, Lady Macbeth is far beyond the coy and now rather gentle look at sex between the classes and the danger that lurks in the mental cruelty offered by Ms. Bronte, this is animalistic and calculating, the very epitome of Shakespeare’s most dangerous woman made flesh as a cold hearted killer.
Florence Pugh may have only appeared in a handful of television programmes and one not so demanding film, however her time on screen as the wild Katherine, a woman of remote detachment, of moral bankruptcy when it comes to lives of others, is one of absolute gem, a cinematic queen born in the presence of those willing to slide down into the depths of a human mind as she makes her position in life uncomfortable and filled with the images of innocent blood.
This is an actress of the highest quality, one perhaps born of a chilling disposition to portray madness and rage in such a way that it is quietly confident, a sense of distance in her eyes that both thrills the cinema goer but also has them remembering such great roles in which woman have gone beyond the damaged and wrecked revenge on the society that has ill-treated them. For this Ms. Pugh deserves not only applause but utmost respect.
Her time on screen with the much admired Christopher Fairbanks is in itself a delight; the damning animosity captured between the two actors creates enough tension to keep the Clifton Bridge raised for a hundred years.
The uncomfortable thought of a female murderer, the so called gentler sex hiding such catastrophic feelings deep in her very soul, is always one that sends chills down the spine, it is the unexpected, the remote detachment suddenly filled with hot blood that makes this type of British film so alluring. Filled with a natural soundtrack, not a hint of overlaying music throughout, the film is pitched as unfeeling as possible, the misery recognised in films such as Wuthering Heights, the bleakness offered when there is no overlaying soundtrack to distract the sound of a head being beaten by a woman with venom in her heart, only makes the film more effortless and damning.
Lady Macbeth is a film of class dedication, of brutality and unashamed Victorian hypocrisy; a film to feel the absolute displeasure emanating from the inner soul of one extraordinary actress giving a superb performance.
Ian D. Hall