Monday, May 10, 2010

Miserablists in the Caucasus

Anton Chekhov's The Duel (2009) - Koshashvili
A beautiful resort seaside town in the Caucasus had been a setting for many of Chekhov stories purgatory. The setting presented here, shot by Egoyan regular Paul Sarossy is nothing short of stunning: Clear blue sky and even clearer, darker sea. This costume drama concerns the miserable lives of Vanya Laevsky (Andrew Scott) and his mistress Nadia (Fiona Glascott). At first glance, young Vanya is an all around douchebag- always drunk, gambles, treats Nadia badly. But with a good reason- he's fallen out of love with Nadia and feels stuck. To make matters worse, he gets a letter from Moscow that Nadia's husband had just died. This could mean only one thing: a hasty loveless marriage. He conceals the fact from her as long as he can. Nadia on the other hand, busies herself with material things while cumulating debt and admirers alike (with her milky white complexion, showing off her sizable cleavage in her beautifully tailored dresses against stunning surroundings) all around town. Even in the small village away from 'civilization' they are bound by rules and customs of the society. Vanya tries to get away and asks for money from sympathetic Samoylenko, an old army doctor. The doc in turn tries to borrow money from Von Koren, a zoologist, man of science, who only has contempt for Vanya's very existence. Things escalate.

Like many of Chekhov's novels, however miserable and contemptible, every character is humanistic and redeemable. They just need to be shown what they are like even if it means pointing or being pointed at with a pistol.

I usually don't like sad sacks. But with Chekhov's bourgeois miserables, I always find myself drawn in and end up enjoying the hell out of them. Does this make me a masochist?

This adaptation is a great one. It has considerable humor and acting is top notch all around. Russian born Israeli director Dover Koshashvili handles the material with care and sets out the boundaries for the actors just right. I heard this theatrical run here is world premiere.I hope this will find a wider audience.