Overlook Film Festival's centerpiece film was William Oldroyd's Lady Macbeth. Set in rural England in 1865, a young woman is trapped in a loveless marriage and finds freedom in a sexy worker on the grounds - a pretty classic setup. Before you get irritated about cliched narratives, this film is an adaptation of a mid-nineteenth century novella written by Nikolai Leskov. Considering that the source material is 150 years old, I am putting aside my "tired storylines" tirade. And before you get worried about how a period piece may play to modern audiences, let me tell you - first time feature director William Oldroyd knows how to ratchet up the tension.
I'm inclined to call this film "slow-burning" but somehow I find a knot in my stomach and a lingering feeling of tense dread. A beautiful film that takes its time, the audience gets the feeling of just how simultaneously isolating and suffocating life could be in the middle of nowhere England. There's societal structures and pressures that are felt by all - and the desire to be free, "to take the air", can lead some to a particularly dark place.
Florence Pugh, who plays the titular character, emotes beautifully throughout the film. The audience never really gets a grasp on who she is beneath the crinoline, but you can tell there's a fire hidden beneath her careful poise. Whenever the mask slips, she makes you feel for her while being at first irritated, and then repulsed as the film goes on.
It's not for everyone. A slow-burn period piece that centers around the darker sides of humanity in a time when everything was supposed to be just so. But if you're the least bit inclined to all too human horror, Lady Macbeth should be on your "must watch" list of 2017.