Lady Macbeth von Mzensk (1992) from Tuna

Pop Quiz

This project features loud music with undecipherable lip-synced lyrics, topless and full frontal nudity from a large breasted woman for more than half of its running length, a great deal of simulated sex, and it has a very simple story line. Is it:

a) A soft core porn
b) A European rock video
c) An obscure Russian opera
d) A late-70s sexploitation film
e) None of the above

The correct answer is "c." Lady Macbeth von Mzensk (1992) is a German production of a Shostakovich opera written in 1934. It enjoyed 180 performances in its first year and a half, then Joseph Stalin went to see it, and banned it forever (Could Stalin be the prototype for the MPAA?). Shostakovich was in so much hot water that he decided to pass on his revolutionary 4th symphony, and released his more traditional 5th instead. It is possible that Stalin's actions ended Shostakovich's innovation.


There is male and female frontal nudity, and some energetic sex scenes. If it were rated, it would probably be NC-17.
Like most operas, the plot (libretto) is very simple. A hot-blooded young woman (Katerina) is unhappy in an arranged marriage to a merchant farmer. Not only must she put up with a cold-fish husband, but she also had to wait on her overbearing father-in-law. Her main problem was boredom and horniness. When her husband had to supervise the repair of a distant dam, she solved half of her problems in the arms of an attractive hired hand. Her father-in-law caught her lover sneaking out of her bedroom window, and flogged him. He then started berating her, and demanded food.

She cooked up a gourmet mushroom and rat poison dish, and solved problem number two. When her husband returned, her lover solved problem three by strangling the husband, whom they hid in the cellar. The two married. At their wedding feast, a drunken guest broke into the cellar looking for more vodka, and found the decaying remains of the husband. He summoned the police, who arrested the two lovers. Sentenced to exile in Siberia, they are made to walk with a group of prisoners suffering a similar fate, and the lover decides that she ruined his life, and he wants no part of her. He sweet-talks her out of her warm woolen stockings using a feigned leg injury as an excuse, then trades them for sex with another female exile.

DVD info from Amazon.

Standard 4:3 version only

The DVD transfer is fair, but "standard" aspect ratio, and could have really used some special features, although the material on the packaging was very helpful.

When the exile has the nerve to thank Katerina, Katerina jumps her on a bridge, and the two drown in the fast moving river.

Katerina is played by Markéta Hrubesová, whom you probably remember as the redhead in Delta of Venus. I wish I could say that I discovered this rare bit of exposure, but obscure Russian opera is not anywhere near the top of my list when looking through new releases. I got it based on the suggestion of one of the Funhouse members. There is nearly nothing about it on line. I found the music overbearing and heavy-handed, and it committed the cardinal sin of an opera for me -- there is not one tune worth humming. Hrubesová's strong suit is not lip-syncing, but she was very hot in the sex scenes, and her acting was wonderful. All of the other players gave solid performances. The film was stylishly set and beautifully photographed. For those that can put up with the libretto and Shostakovich, the eroticism is well worth seeing.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: not enough votes for a rating.

Return to the Movie House home page