"Depressing, Lurid Feminist Tale"
What You Need To Know:
Though LADY MACBETH is based on a Russian novella, the novella is in turn based on the female character in Shakespeare’s play, MACBETH. However, unlike these two sources, the murderous villainess in LADY MACBETH never gets her comeuppance. Here, the filmmakers insert Marxist-Feminist political ideology. Thus, it is the oppressive patriarchal, capitalist system in Victorian England that drives Katherine to murder and other acts of selfish cruelty in LADY MACBETH. In the end, she ends up just as trapped on the family estate as she was when she first married Alexander. As a result, LADY MACBETH ends up being depressing.
(RoRoRo, FeFeFe, CoCo, Acap, Ab, L, VVV, SS, NN, AA, MMM) Very strong Romantic, feminist, communist worldview about a young woman driven to lust, murder and betrayal because of the stifling patriarchal society in which she lives, with some elements suggesting capitalism and Christianity are partly to blame because they’re complicit in the woman’s “oppression”; four or five obscenities (including three or four “f” words); extreme violence includes woman bludgeons man to death with poker by striking his head several times viciously, and man’s bloody head shown briefly, plus strong disturbing violence includes fighting, woman smothers 7-year-old boy to death with pillow while man holds down his legs, woman shoots horse dead, older man beats young man with a wooden stick until he has bloody wounds on his back, man poisoned with poison mushrooms; depicted adulterous intercourse in three scenes, passionate adulterous kissing, and husband masturbates while staring at wife’s nude body from behind; rear female nudity in three or four scenes and images of upper male nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; no smoking or drugs; and, betrayal, cruelty, lying, deceit, woman blames and frames innocent people for her own crimes, people treated harshly, class distinctions, and dysfunctional family.
LADY MACBETH is a lurid melodrama, based on a Russian novella, about a young woman in a loveless marriage to an older man in Rural Victorian England, who begins a torrid affair with a stable boy that ends in murder and injustice. Ultimately, LADY MACBETH is a subtle yet overt feminist attack condemning what it sees as the stifling patriarchy of Victorian society, which, the movie suggests, drives the title character to lust, murder and betrayal.
The movie opens with a 17-year-old girl, Katherine, being forced by circumstances to marry a rich 40-year-old mine owner, Alexander, by the man’s mean old father, Boris. Alexander, however, wants nothing to do with Katherine, even though his father arranged the marriage so that the family would have a legitimate heir to the mine.
The next day, business calls Boris and Alexander away from their estate, and Katherine is left all alone. They order Katherine to remain indoors, thinking that the fresh air of the countryside harbors all sorts of diseases waiting to fell a young wife like her. Katherine, however, doesn’t agree with these fears at all. So, she goes roaming about the estate.
When she enters the estate’s large stables, she finds the stable hands viciously teasing her maid, Anna, who’s been stripped naked and placed in a burlap bag hoisted from the ceiling. She orders the men to stop, which they do, but Katherine is attracted to their insolent leader, Sebastian.
Soon, Katherine and Sebastian are having a torrid affair. The affair takes a hiatus when her father-in-law returns. However, the old man discovers what’s happening, and he beats Sebastian mercilessly and hits Katherine after chastising her.
So, the next day, Katherine sneaks into the forest to gather some poisonous mushrooms to feed Boris. When Boris goes to what passed for a bathroom in those days to regurgitate the foul meal, Katherine locks the door behind him and doesn’t let a doctor be called until she’s sure Boris will die. Also, she has the gall to blame Anna for picking the mushrooms, and Anna is rendered mute by the horror of what has happening.
Katherine and Sebastian continue their affair, but Alexander returns home unexpectedly in the dead of night. Sebastian hides in the next room, but Alexander confronts his wife about her adultery. So, she fetches a half-naked Sebastian from the other room and flaunts their lust before her husband. Alexander starts pummeling Sebastian, and Sebastian fights back. During their struggles, Katherine takes the poker from the fire and bludgeons Alexander to death. Katherine and Sebastian take Alexander’s dead body to the forest, where they shoot his horse and bury it and Alexander’s body.
The love affair resumes again, but one day an older woman appears at the estate with a 7-year-old boy who happens to be Alexander’s illegitimate son from the woman’s dead daughter. The woman has papers showing that Alexander had made the boy his ward.
Fearing that the affair and the murders she’s committed will be found out, Katherine orders Sebastian back to the stables. However, this infuriates Sebastian and leads to another murder, as well as betrayal.
LADY MACBETH is based on a Russian novella, which is in turn based on the female character in Shakespeare’s play, MACBETH. However, unlike these two sources, the villainess in LADY MACBETH never really gets her comeuppance. Here, the filmmakers have inserted some modern Marxist-Feminist political ideology. Hence, the movie’s point seems to be that the “patriarchal” tyranny of Victorian England is to blame for driving Katherine to murder and to get away with her vile crimes by betraying and blaming other people. Thus, male society is to blame, including capitalism and the Church of England because they are complicit in upholding the patriarchal system under which women, including Katherine’s maid, suffer.
Unlike other communist filmmakers, however (such as Michael Moore), the filmmakers behind LADY MACBETH are a lot subtler about the leftist message in their movie. They don’t bludgeon the viewer with their leftist message in a direct, overbearing way. For example, the priest that appears in the movie is not a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash. He just sincerely supports the father-in-law’s opinion that wives should remain inside the house, not gallivanting about the countryside. Thus, he comes across as much less mean than the cruel father-in-law. Even the father-in-law, however, is mean and cruel because of the sexual oppression and patriarchal social conventions of his socio-economic environment. In other words, patriarchal capitalism corrupts everyone.
So, in the end, Katherine ends up just as trapped on the family estate as she was when she first married Alexander. As a result, LADY MACBETH ends up being a pretty depressing cinematic experience.