— Ellie Broughton

The Quietus film review: Lady Macbeth

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 17.26.21

On Katherine Lester’s wedding night, her maid Anna buttons her into a nightdress.

Are you cold, Anna asks. No, Katherine replies.

Moments later, Katherine and her husband prepare for their first night together. The house is cold, he tells her. She protests that she’s thick-skinned. To punish her for answering back, he commands her to take off her nightdress. As she pulls it over her head, the gold of her wedding band catches the low light of the fire behind him. Clothes gone, finger still trapped in the ring, she stands naked in the stone cold room while he climbs under the covers.

Lady Macbeth, based on a 19th century novella, has previously been the stuff of stage and opera adaptations. (The film’s director, William Oldroyd, and writer, Alice Birch, both have backgrounds in theatre). It’s the first feature for its director, writer and producer. One of the products of the iFeatures programme, Lady Macbeth was put together in Northumberland on a shoestring budget; its star, Florence Pugh, won Breakthrough Of The Year for her performance.

Florence Pugh is mesmerising, and Ackie’s understated portrayal of Anna is quietly devastating. The view is bleak and captivating. The huge landscapes and roaring soundscapes give glimpses of the raw power that drives the protagonist. On top of the soundscapes, and those incredible painterly interior shots, the film hangs from a sizzling, stripped-back script that makes its silence claustrophobic. The energy of the film’s inevitable tragedy barrels hard into the film’s devastating twist.

As a study in power, not much else comes close this year. Expect plenty more to come from the trio behind it.

Read the full review on the film section of The Quietus here.