Yet, this film, 56 years later, has very much stood the test of time. Yes, its sets by Sekulovic are crucial; the isolated village in which Katerina Izmilowa lives, with its whirls of blowing dust and the walled fortress of her home in which she lives with a missing and unloving husband and his terrifyingly crude father symbolizes her plight of being a handsome woman locked away from any emotional fulfillment.
While Sergei, the peasant, clearly feels guilt, Katherina seems to feel no remorse; she has freed herself from at worst one of her major tormentors. And when her husband returns home, forcing Sergei to temporarily flee her bed, she has little difficulty in planning the demise of Zinovij Izmailow (Miodrag Lazarević), who having heard rumors has returned home earlier than expected—although it appears that he might have intended to go away forever.
Despite Sergei’s relative innocence in the murders, we see him, once again, as a sexist monster, attempting to seduce another beautiful woman during the voyage. Strangely, by this time, we side more with the murderous Katerina than with her former lover. She, at least, is still loyal to him, ready to give up her own life for him. Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella, upon which this film was based, in its pre-feminist hero, might have been in league with Ibsen’s Nora of Ibsen’s A Dell’s House, written 14 years later. We sympathize with this intelligent and passionate woman, trapped in a society from which she had few alternatives to escape, although we might not wish to be left alone with her for very long for fear of our survival. Like so many strong women of film, literature, and opera, she is a seductress and monster both, just as likely, if she fell in love, to serve your head upon a plate.