The critics loved this movie adapted from a Russian novel, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” written in 1865 by Nikolai Leskov. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s cold-blooded character, this adolescent wife, purchased by the father of the groom to entice his son to produce an heir, begins as an abused woman and morphs into a sociopathic murderer whose two favorite activities are sex and violence. Despite her fitting perfectly into the contemporary cinematic cult governed by the same naked drives, there is an appalling logic gap in this movie which seems to have escaped the attention of its fawning fans, though not of its audience.
The bride is brought into a Gothic house ruled by a tyrannical husband and his aging father. There are workers and servants in this house, but except for the lady’s maid, the others are mostly invisible except for isolated scenes. When the husband leaves home on an extended business trip, the young wife elevates her groomsman/lover into a foppish facsimile of master of the house and has him served at the dining room table without fear that this will engender chatter by the kitchen help that will eventually reach the ears of the community. And when the young wife shoots her bludgeoned husband’s horse twice, she is clearly not concerned that the sounds of those gunshots will reverberate to the suspecting household staff as well. Nor is there any fear in Lady Macbeth that the unburied horse will be spotted by the search team wandering the forest where it was killed while they look for a missing child. Though these are small details, they accumulate rapidly leaving us to wonder where the screenwriter disappeared while these events occurred.
This Lady Macbeth has a script written by someone who hasn’t learned that both character studies and thrillers depend on pivotal details and that once our disbelief has been aroused, it doesn’t matter much what follows. Credibility is the key to identifying with protagonists whether they are likable, hateful or both. As Johnny Cochran might have said, “without some common sense, the criminals are dense.” To crown the disregard for some degree of accuracy in the characters’ behavior and circumstance, there is the misleading Scottish connection since this Lady Macbeth apparently lives in Northern England.
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