In some of the first interior scenes in Lady Macbeth you can literally see the dust falling through the air and, so still are the interiors, that this counts as action. Stillness, silence, boredom – the scene is being set. The house is introduced as a character, the sounds of doors and windows, footsteps on hard floors. Several times we are told how cold it gets, and conversely, how it is best to stay indoors as it is clearly even colder outside. A prison within a prison.
I love films that appear naturalistic, daylit interiors especially (I was reminded of a recent film by Jessica Hausner called ‘Amour Fou’ which is worth watching for the colours and lighting alone) and the quality of light and interiors here is very reminiscent of paintings by the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi. That same sense of silence and the feeling of time passing very slowly if at all.
Some of the interiors in Lady Macbeth are pure Hammershoi with the muted colours, side light and absolute stillness. There is a view right at the end of the film as the main character walks away from us along the hallway that is like a Hammershoi picture come to life. The photography (and presumably lighting) is by Ari Wegner and very beautiful it is too.
But the link that struck me even more than Hammershoi was with a photographer called Desiree Dolron, specifically a series of pictures she made called XTERIORS. The clarity of the lighting on faces, the coldness of daylight spilling in through windows, the darkness of the interiors was all very reminiscent of the dutch photographer.
The visual mood of XTERIORS is darker but the lighting and sense of silence and foreboding is the same – the film is cold and dark to the core. The feeling of being trapped in a house, outside light leaking in slightly but not enough to brighten up the gloomy interiors, nothing good is going to happen here. If there is a soundtrack to this it is creaking floorboards, another thing that Lady Macbeth does really well is sound, the sounds of the house, the outside sometimes heard in the far distance, the quiet birdsong playing over the end credits.
All this Scandi/Flemish noir is right up my street and if you like this kind of thing too then I urge you to go and see the film, but wrap up warm!