Siberian Lady Macbeth | Chicago Reader

Siberian Lady Macbeth

Andrzej Wajda's 1961 drama adapts "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," a short story by 19th-century Russian writer Nikolai Leskov. Katerina (Olivera Markovic), the daughter-in-law of a loutish but prosperous merchant in a village just west of the Volga, falls for Sergei (Ljuba Tadic), the brawny serf who shows up to work at the family compound, and they commit a string of murders to conceal their clandestine love affair. Despite the Shakespearean overtones, Wajda seems to sympathize with Katerina and Sergei, both victims of the class system. His mise-en-scene—mostly interior scenes, with low-angle shots that include the ceilings and framing that isolates Katerina—underscores the sense of oppression, and weighty motifs from the Shostakovich opera based on the same story accompany the film's inexorable march toward tragedy. When it was released, critics called it academic and chilly, though Wajda's disciplined, theatrical direction—especially his imaginative staging of an Easter mass—constitutes something of a tour de force.

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