Victorian patriarchy meets its match in this juicy period drama.
The title alerts us to murderous intent, but the source material here is one step removed from Shakespeare: director William Oldroyd and writer Alice Birch’s striking debut is a stylised reinvention of the 1865 Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young bride, a virtual captive in the draughty mansion of her dour mine owner husband. Her flinty father-in-law pressures her for an heir, though the sadistic ritual unfolding nightly in the marital bedroom scarcely favours reproduction.
The incredulous Katherine plots her liberation. If she’s prepared to contemplate murder to escape this disgusting prison, what won’t she do to guarantee her pleasure when she finds it in the arms of the taunting hunk (Cosmo Jarvis) who runs the household stable?
Her maid (Naomi Ackie) stands by, rendered mute by the trouble she sees. Pugh, in virtually every scene, is mesmerising; her insolence smouldering as she’s corseted into tight bodices and hooped skirts; her abandon as sumptuous as her flesh when she casts them off.
Critics’ Prize, San Sebastián International Film Festival 2016
“A barbed feminist fable of class, cruelty and sexual power that feels absolutely true to its period and uncannily attuned to the present moment.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times, USA
Visit nziff.co.nz to see the full schedule of films on at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.