A lethal lady falls in with a mysterious drifter. As more of her family finds out, she takes steps to bump them off rather than admit anything. That's the premise of Siberian Lady Macbeth (Sibirska Ledi Magbet), Andrzej Wajda's film from 1962, written by Sveta Lukic from a novella by N. S. Ljeskov entitled Lady Macbeth of Mzensk District. Wajda is of course the Polish director of Ashes and Diamonds, Man of Iron, and Danton. Wajda filmed the movie in Yugoslavia, for some reason, but it feels very Russian, especially thanks to the ziggurats sometimes seen in the background. Ljuba Tadic plays Katerina, the bored wife of a stolid peasant. Olivera Markovic is Sergei, the wanderer who comes to town and creates problems, or at least brings out the worst in Katerina. To stay with him (why?) she embarks on a series of crimes. When they are caught out, they are banished to Siberia, where Sergei falls in with another woman. Katerina drags her rival to the Volga and drowns both her and herself. Siberian Lady Macbeth proves to be a rather slow paced film, that takes achingly long to reach its plot points. It is more interested in the dirt and livestock of peasant life, of rituals and passions, than in advancing the narrative. Most European films of this time period are allegories for the harshness of Soviet rule, but it's hard to glean what this film is really about beneath its surface. There is a streak of misogyny in Wajda's work, and Siberian Lady Macbeth may be an expression of that strain, rather than a covert political statement.
VIDEO: Kino offers a Siberian Lady Macbeth derived from a scratchy, dirty print that also has a lot of flicker in it. It's a black and white movie, in widescreen format (2.35:1), and despite the problems with the source print, it has vibrant whites and rich blacks. For the most part, it's a beautifully composed frame, by cinematographer Aleksandar Sekulovic.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital two channel mono track is fairly scratchy, even shrill at times, which does a disservice to Dusan Radic's lively score, derived from Dmitri Shostakovich.
MENUS: A static, silent menu offers 15 chapter scene selection for the 93 minute movie.
PACKAGING: A keep case also contains a one sheet chapter guide. The packaging utilizes stills from the film, not the poster, for illustrations.
EXTRAS: Zero supplements.
Final Thoughts: Siberian Lady Macbeth is a rather minor film from a major director, but its still good to have a hard to find Eastern European film available on disc, despite problems with the source print.