THE BACKLOG: Lady Macbeth

I’d rather stop you breathing than have you doubt how I feel.

Florence Pugh is definitely the young, rising actor to watch right now. This movie could be so boring and lifeless if not for the simmering anger and verve she brings to every scene. She packs heaps of emotion into a sharp intake of breath, an icy stare, a sip of tea; it’s captivating. Lady Macbeth succeeds because she carries it on her back. 

Speaking of breath, I’ve never encountered a movie that paid so much attention to it. You hear every sharp breath as Catherine jolts back awake, or the passionate breaths during the love scenes, whimpers when someone is hurt, the deep sobs of agony in the last half of the film. The sound team did an excellent job on that front.

Equal kudos goes to the design team because the impersonal sets create a chilly atmosphere that perfectly complements the film’s cold tone. Add to that the stationary observations of the camera: remaining steady when someone stands, their face leaving the frame at the moment they show emotion. The camera doesn’t leave the room with characters, the film has little interest in getting up close and personal because there is scant warmth or intimacy in Lady Macbeth. Only a harsh, cold story. 

Which makes it jarring when the director does switch to a shaky cam shot. William Oldroyd uses the shots well, but they don’t fit the whole scope of the movie. The choices didn’t match up enough with the emotions of the subject, or for the arc of the story. 

The other faults here rest primarily on the slow start to the film. It takes a while to find its feet and get off to a run. Also, it’s initial love scene was a bit problematic, in my eyes. Didn’t make too much sense in the long run. 

I’m always a sucker for stories about slow descents into villainy, and while the jump is a little bit implausible I found it great.

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