• Lady M 5.1

    Director: Mariano Baino
    Cast: Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni
    Year: 2017

    Adapting Shakespeare in 2017 can be a tricky thing. While it’s true that the Bard’s tales are about as timeless as they come, it’s fair to say at this point in history that they’ve been done to death. But every once in a while a filmmaker will come along with a completely unique take on a story that most of the western world has seen performed, be it on stage or screen, at least once in their life. That brings us to Lady M 5.1, an experimental short film directed by Mariano Baino, the man behind Dark Waters. What started as a simple idea – to film leading lady Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni reading the first scene of the fifth act of MacBeth – evolved into something more, something very, very different.

    The movie starts with an opening sequence quick in its pacing and cut to a fast rhythm. As the sounds of machines are heard quick text blurbs give us all that we need to know and little else – the machines have taken over and what’s left of mankind are their playthings. There is, however, one element of humanity that the machines have so far been unable to replicate, and that’s the ever complex area of emotion. In an attempt to get around this hurdle, they setup an experiment of sorts in which Lady MacBeth (Cataldi-Tassoni) wakes out of a deep sleep to find blood on her hands, at which point Cataldi-Tassoni delivers the famous soliloquy from the play in a way that is dramatic, passionate and entirely appropriate to the tone the picture sets.

    We won’t spoil the ending.

    Rather than deliver a feature length take on MacBeth, Baino and Cataldi-Tassoni have instead delivered a twenty-three minute short that is rich in contrast and in symbolism. The obvious metaphor here is how technology has and will continue to take over our lives. This is made very clear in the opening sequence and it’s something that the movie returns to time and again. As Cataldi-Tassoni spits on her hand to get the blood off or her or tries to clean the gore that only she can see off of the floor using her hair, the film will cut back to the mechanical creations that are observing her. They do not speak, they simply watch, though they don’t actually have eyes to do so with, at least not in the traditional ‘organic’ sense.

    This juxtaposition of the living and the mechanical is only one of the stark contrasts put forth in the picture. There are visuals here that are quite striking – the machines, cold and clinical, contrast with Cataldi-Tassoni’s performance, which is very much alive and very much delivered as if in a state of panic (true to source, really). A red curtain hangs in the foreground in some shots, while our actress is clad only in the purest of white linens. As a trio of masks looks on, cold in their artificiality, Baino uses something as simple as a candle to provide light and to provide some warmth. There’s a lot going on here, more than just an obviously very committed performance from the film’s sole cast member. The visuals mix with the performance in fascinating ways, easily holding our attention and creating difficult suspense from the most famous part of an incredibly well known story. We should know where all of this is going and it should be entirely familiar to anyone who paid attention in high school English class but the way that this plays out is anything but predictable.

    Cataldi-Tassoni, who also worked on the costumes and created the music for the film, will probably be best known to readers of this website for her appearance in Demons 2 and for appearing in a string of Dario Argento’s pictures such as Opera, Mother Of Tears and Phantom Of The Opera. She was born into a family very familiar with the arts, however, as at a young age she was performing in her father’s operas. This experience would seem to have made her the ideal actress to take on a part like this, and her work here is indeed impressive. It’s a performance as physical as it is dramatic and one you won’t soon forget. This, combined with Baino’s taut direction and wild creative vision and some impressive cinematography from Andrew Libert make this strangely haunting and thought-provoking picture one well worth seeking out.