Lady Macbeth (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 30, 2017 by  

Filmmaker William Oldroyd has done a good job with “Lady Macbeth” and the film is made much better thanks to the performance of actress Florence Pugh.  A dark film that is much different from the original story by Nikolai Leskov, and has its flaws.  “Lady Macbeth” is a sinfully, dark, entertaining drama worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Lady Macbeth


DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish


COMPANY: Lions Gate

AVAILABLE ON: October 17, 2017

Based on the novel “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” by Nikolai Leskov

Directed by William Oldroyd

Written by Alice Birch

Producer: Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

Executive Producer: Lizzie Francke, Christopher Granier-Deferre, Steve Jenkins, Christopher Moll, Jim Reeve

Associate Producer: Dan Jones

Music by Dan Jones

Cinematography by Ari Wegner

Edited by Nick Emerson  

Casting by Shaheen Baig 

Production Design by Jacqueline Abrahams 

Art Direction by Thalia Ecclestone 

Costume Design by Holly Waddington


Florence Pugh as Katherine

Cosmo Jarvis as Sebastian

Paul Hilton as Alexander

Nami Ackie as Anna

Christopher Fairbank as Boris

Golda Rosheuvel as Agnes

Anton Palmer as Teddy

Rebecca Manley as Mary

Fleur Houdijk as Tessa

Cliff Burnett as Father Peter

Rural England, 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family is cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Long ago, Russian novelist Nikolai Semyonovich Leskov would write one of his most famous works “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” in 1865.  Published in Epoch Magazine, while ignored by contemporary critics, it was praised decades later as a masterpiece.

Fastforward to 1934 and the film received an opera adaptation by Dmitri Shostakovich.  But because of its story which revolved around a lonely woman in 19th Century Russia who falls in love with one of her husband’s workers and is driven to murder, the opera was watched by Stalin and the opera was banned and wouldn’t be seen again by 1961.

Championed as a story about the oppression and liberation of a woman, director William Oldroyd and writer Alice Birch worked to bring the film to the big screen.  While not a loyal adaptation and the fact that the film is set in 1865 in rural England, the storyline was changed.  And what was a story about oppression and liberation, goes to its darker depths of becoming a film about a woman who is driven to be with her lover, even if it means murder.

The film stars Florence Pugh (“The Falling”, “Marcella”, “The Commuter”), Cosmo Jarvis (“The Naughty Room”), Paul Hilton (“Wuthering Heights”, “Dragon’s World”, “Klimt”), Naomi Ackie (“Doctor Who”, “I Used to Be Famous”), Christopher Fairbank (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “The Fifth Element”, “Pirates of the Carribbean”, “Alien 3”), Golda Rosheuvel (“Luther”, “Silent Witness”, “Rev”) and Anton Palmer.

And now “Lady Macbeth” will be released on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

The film is set in 1865 rural England and Katherine (portrayed by Florence Pugh) is married to an older man, Alexander Lester.

She moves to a country estate of Alexander’s father, Boris (portrayed by Christopher Fairbank) and quickly learns that her new home will be strict.  She is unable to leave the house, her servant Anna (portrayed by Naomi Ackie) is strict and follows her employer’s rules.  And each time, she is forced to undress in front of her husband, but he does nothing.  Meanwhile, Boris admonishes Katherine for not giving him a son.

One day, as Boris and Alexander leave for business, Katherine leaves the home and sees the men in an outhouse forcing Anna to undress and having her suspended from the ground.  When she tells the men to let her down, a man named Sebastian (portrayed by Cosmo Jarvis) laughs.  When she asks him to guess her weight, he immediately grabs her and carries her, not caring that she is the wife of his boss.

As Katherine leaves, she starts walking in the field and sees him and she begins to have an attraction towards him.  When Sebastian goes to visit him, she invites him in and they have sex.

Anna knows what is going on and informs the local priest, who warns Katherine but she sends him away.  When Boris arrives, he is informed about the affair and he beats and locks Sebastian in the stable.  When she demands his release, he threatens her, so Katherine responds by poisoning his food and chokes on it.

Anna is terrified by what has happened and becomes a mute and with Alexander still gone, he has Boris buried, she manages his estate and she has her affair openly.

But when Alexander returns home, this leads to Katherine doing the unthinkable.


“Lady Macbeth” is presented in 2:35:1 and is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. While I wished the film was released on Blu-ray, the film looks very good on DVD as picture quality is good, dialogue is clear and for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.


“Lady Macbeth” comes with a five minute behind-the scenes featurette, photo gallery and theatrical trailer.

There was no doubt that Nikolai Leskov’s “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” was ahead of its time.  A novel depicting a married woman, bored at home, sick of her husband’s cold demeanor and being scolded, decides to have an affair with one of the workers.

The story was bold as it depicted a married woman planning murder and wanting to be liberated and no longer being oppressed.

In some ways, the original novel is reminiscent of an Edgar Allen Poe novel, while the film adaptation by filmmaker William Oldroyd and writer Alice Birch tends to eliminate any prison stories, finding no need to extend the storyline as featured in the novel which leads to a closing finale and that evil never wins, this film ends with no such closure but while Katherine loses, she also wins.

The film is also changed to showcase a white woman having an affair with a poor man of mixed-race. And while Florence Pugh’s performance is what makes “Lady Macbeth” an entertaining film, the film has its share of problems.

I have a problem with the servant Anna suddenly turning mute, more to make the ending stick.  But it was a bit hard to accept as it seems a bit contrived.

Another problem is that while the original novel is no doubt crimes of passion, “Lady Macbeth” is a film that goes beyond that and it seems that the oppressed and liberated Katherine is possibly a serial killer.  A person who kills because she wants to, because she can and the leadup from this pure woman who just got married descending into the darkness so quickly, things just seem to happen too quickly and yes, situations appear to be contrived.  Perhaps if the film tried to show a sick, amoral individual and we see glimpses of that sick, deranged mind of hers, it would have worked effectively.

And as the novel ends with closure, is there any closure that one gets from watching the ending of “Lady Macbeth”?

As for the DVD, picture quality is good, although I wish the film was released on Blu-ray.  Dialogue is clear and there is a small behind-the-scenes featurette, photo gallery and theatrical trailer.

Overall, filmmaker William Oldroyd has done a good job with “Lady Macbeth” and the film is made much better thanks to the performance of actress Florence Pugh.  A dark film that is much different from the original story by Nikolai Leskov, and has its flaws.  “Lady Macbeth” is a sinfully, dark, entertaining drama worth watching.

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