Lady Macbeth: Making Of

Rural England, 1865. KATHERINE (Florence Pugh), 17, stands in an empty church on her wedding day. Her new husband ALEXANDER (Paul Hilton), 40, looks on impassively as the Vicar pronounces them man and wife. Alexander’s ageing father BORIS (Christopher Fairbank), 70, a wealthy mine owner, watches the pair. He has bought Katherine, along with a small plot of land, from her father and arranged the marriage. Their wedding night goes unconsummated – Alexander is morose, and Katherine awkward and upset when her new husband makes no physical advances towards her.

Katherine wakes up in her new home – a large, austere house some way from the nearest village. Her husband tells her that she should not leave the house, and she spends her days in the stifling, airless rooms served and maintained by only a few servants. Her maid, ANNA (Naomi Ackie), wakes and dresses her each day, silently watching her grow increasingly bored and frustrated.

After an explosion at one of Boris’ collieries, Alexander is sent away for a number of weeks to deal with the emergency while Boris leaves on a business trip to London. Before he leaves he instructs Katherine to improve in her duties as a wife: to deliver an heir, to be faithful and to stay indoors. Katherine’s every move is being watched and reported on.

Alone in the house, Katherine defies her father-in-law and begins to take her first steps into the outside world, revelling in the open, windswept wilderness. She comes across a group of farmhands on her estate bullying Anna, hoisting up the ashamed girl naked in a barn and weighing her as if she were a pig. Their ringleader, SEBASTIAN (Cosmo Jarvis), 22, is handsome, strong and rough, and not inclined to obey orders. He provokes Katherine and his impertinence forges an immediate attraction between them.

One night, Sebastian sneaks into the house and into Katherine’s room. Katherine is initially resistant to his coarse intrusion but ultimately they give way to their lust. Over the next few days their affair becomes more and more unrestrained, snatching moments together in the stables and when the house is empty. Katherine grows less subservient and more authoritative as the mistress of the house. Yet it becomes clear very quickly that Katherine’s movements are being monitored – the local priest FATHER PETER arrives to check up on her, and Anna tells Sebastian that Alexander would not be happy if he knew what was happening in his absence.

Boris returns from London, but there is no news from Alexander. Katherine, newly emboldened, begins to bite back against her father-in-law’s authoritarian regime, allowing Anna to take the blame when she and Sebastian have drunk all the house’s stock of wine. It doesn’t take Boris long to discover the affair and so he viciously beats Sebastian and locks him up in the stables. Katherine demands that he be released, but Boris furiously tells her that she has bought shame on the family name, and that she has failed in her sole duty – to provide Alexander with a legitimate heir. He hits her.

 Katherine sneaks out from the house early and brings home poisonous mushrooms, which she serves to Boris for breakfast. A doctor is called once Katherine is certain that her tormentor is past help, and she subtly shifts the guilt for the ‘accident’ to Anna who is rendered mute in horror. Alexander does not return for the funeral of his hated father, and in his continued absence Katherine begins to flaunt Sebastian in the house. She declares her love for him – a passionate, all-encompassing love and the fact that she would rather he was dead than that they should be parted.

Alexander returns home in the dead of night, and Sebastian is forced to hide. He confronts his wife about her adultery, revealing that news of it has spread across the county. Unperturbed, she drags Sebastian out of his hiding place and parades their sexuality in front of her husband. Alexander fiercely attacks them, and in the frantic scrap that ensues Katherine instinctively bludgeons him to death. Sebastian, petrified, buries the body in the woods, but he is haunted by the killing and by his lover’s lack of remorse.

Katherine moves Sebastian into the house to make him master. For a moment there is a chance that they could lead a happy life, until one day they are visited by a woman called AGNES (Golda Rosheuvel), 65, who seems suspicious of Alexander’s disappearance. She informs Katherine that, years ago Alexander fathered an illegitimate child with her daughter and made him his legal ward. He is called TEDDY (Anton Palmer), 7, and as Alexander’s lawful air they have arrived to live in the house. Katherine, fearing that their affair will be discovered, tells Sebastian to keep to the stables until she can hatch a plan. He becomes furious, and looking to provoke Katherine turns his attention to Anna.

Despite herself, Katherine and Teddy begin a tentative friendship, but Katherine soon discovers that she is pregnant with Sebastian’s child – something Anna quickly notices. Teddy runs away from the farm after an argument with Katherine, provoking a large scale search. He is eventually discovered by Sebastian perched on the side of a raging waterfall. Sebastian has the opportunity to drown the boy – the last impediment to their freedom. But his conscience gets the better of him and he returns the cold and feverish boy to the farmhouse alive. Instead of being welcomed a hero, Agnes humiliates him and throws him out. Sebastian angrily packs his bags to leave the farm for good, knowing that Teddy’s presence means that they will never be together. Katherine is now desperate and tells him that she will kill Teddy to keep them together.

Encouraging Agnes to leave her vigil by Teddy’s sickbed, Katherine and Sebastian smother the little boy in his sleep. Dawn comes and Sebastian flees wracked with guilt and self-disgust, while Katherine calmly waits for the scene to be discovered. DOCTOR BURDON (Bill Fellows), 70, examines the boy and Katherine lies that she must have dozed while Teddy choked in his sleep. But DETECTIVE LOGAN (Ian Conningham), 50, is brought to the house to investigate unexplained bruises on the body, which point to murder.

Sebastian’s remorse overwhelms him, and he dramatically confesses his part in the crimes to the gathered assembly. He tells them that Katherine suffocated him with her obsession, and that he wished he’d never set eyes on her. After a moment, Katherine coolly tells the Detective, Agnes and the Doctor that it was Sebastian and Anna who are to blame, not her. She cites Sebastian’s beating at the hands of Boris, and an implied affair, to pin the blame on them. When confronted, Anna is so shocked she cannot speak. Seeing Katherine’s hands on her pregnant stomach, she accepts her fate. The pair are arrested and taken away to hang.

Katherine is left alone again in the empty, echoing house.

 

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