Rural England, 1865. Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family are 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.Written by
This small independent film from the United Kingdom is an astonishing portrait of the bleak realities of how Scottish culture viewed class, race, and (especially) gender in the nineteenth century. The film does this without ever needing to be preachy or overtly politically correct. It is very dark and rather disturbing, and it will get under your skin--but it is brilliantly made. It is the best film of the year so far. It should also, however, be noted that this film is not an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Rather, it is an adaptation of a Russian novel about a woman who begins to exhibit deranged behaviors after being forced into an arranged--and loveless--marriage.
Despite using minimal set pieces and little music, the aesthetics of this film are truly sublime. They add to the simple feel of the film, rather than the extravagant sense of many period dramas. The costume design is also simple rather than outlandish or flamboyant. Once again, this makes the film feel realistic and tense, rather than removed from reality. The film's cinematography is top-notch as well, reflecting the dark tone of the film in its entirety. Florence Pugh is exceptional in the lead role as Katherine. Despite the actions that her character commits in the second half of the film, she manages to generate sympathy while still portraying herself as a twisted individual--almost an impossible trick to pull off. But what elevates this film to utter brilliance is that it is not solely a defense of her--or a defense of anyone. Rather, it is simply a unique reflection on the notion of social status at the time period that skewers all preconceived notions of judgment--including morals and morality--to the point of ambiguous analysis. The film's true messages are quite complex, even though its direct plot is not difficult to follow. This is why even simple, dialogue-free scenes such as moments when the camera stares at Katherine's face as she is seated, tell you so much about her as a character and her mood to a degree that I have not really seen in any film of recent memory. Such complexity, though, is what makes the film an unforgettable watch. (Of course, the uniquely simple look and feel to the film and its excellent, slow-burn-style pacing also contributes greatly to it.) Recommended to the highest degree. 10/10
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