So Ralph Fiennes as it turns out is a confessed fan of Alexander Pushkin and his most famous novel in verse “Eugene Onegin”. Who knew…
He apparently wanted to play Onegin so much that he basically asked his sister to be a director for this movie.http://www.amazon.com/Onegin-Ralph-Fiennes/dp/6305906947/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1234493466&sr=8-1
For those who do not know this novel and basically all Pushkin’s works are very very very important in order to understand the foundation of modern Russian literature.
In fact they had been called a foundation of modern Russian literature and as far as I am concerned for a very good reason.http://www.amazon.com/Eugene-Onegin-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/review/product/0192838997/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
I cannot express how highly I recommend this novel. I mean, I cannot vouch for any of the translation, I know many tried, I do not know if any comes close to show off the beauty of this work. But I am sure as any translation it reflects the original at least somewhat, so yes I do recommend.
So, back to the movie. My hat definitely goes off to Ralph and his sister, no question about it for the extreme faithfulness to the original. I shudder to think what Hollywood would have done here. I am sure it would have a happy ending, most definitely. So, I am glad they adhered faithfully to a story.
Story itself is very simple really. Young nobleman who is extremely bored with Petersburg’s society and does not feel as if he belongs there, arrives in the countryside to manage his uncle (dead) estate. He meets provincial nobles, befriends young poet Lenskiy and meets Larins family with two daughters. Lenskiy loves younger one, Olga. Tatiana falls in love with Onegin, you know, naïve provincial girl, her first love, etc. Tatiana is portrayed as a passionate, sincere soul, so being sincere and all, she writes Onegin a letter and tells him everything and he rejects her, bored with everything, you know?
Being bored and all, one evening Onegin flirts with Olga, Lenskiy calls him out and Onegin, instead of apologizing and all, accepts the challenge and kills Lenskiy. Not because he wanted to kill him mind you, just did not want to challenge tradition and apologize to a kid.
So he goes to travel and then comes back to St. Petersburg. Tatiana married well, became the star in the society and when Onegin sees her, he falls in love, only Tatiana rejects him.
Well, it is pretty much the end of the plot per se. And the movie follows it very very faithfully, and again I give them major kudos for that.
Fiennes IS too old for Evgeniy, Evgeniy is supposed to be in his mid twenties, I think. However, I still think that he hits all the right notes and portrays him very well. Tatiana on the other hand, deep sigh. I mean I disagree with the reviewers on Amazon, who think that Liv Tyler is visually miscast for the part. I thought visually she is perfect. I am sorry, Tatiana is NOT plain, she is not refined, but she is beautiful, young girl coming into her beauty.
But oh dear God, I am sorry for possible offense to Liv Tyler fans I may have on the list, but I think she just cannot act, like at all. Let’s forget all the things she does or not does during the movie, but Tatiana at the end manages to be cold and sad, full of dignity and at the same time revealing her heart all over again and showing that she really did not change much. I am sorry, if Liv would have cried some more, I would not been able to bear seeing it.
So, that I find problematic, her acting I mean. I do have some problems with directing though as well. I mean, as I said, they follow the plot very faithfully, but at the same time I could not shrug the impression that they missed something major. And then I realized – they missed Pushkin. Oh, they follow main plot, but author in the novel, is well, you have to read it to understand, VERY present. His beautiful verse talks about our characters and then he just wonders off to talk say about beauty of the woman’s feet or about the nature or about something else. All those asides are extremely musical, they are fun, for the lack of other word. I do not know how one can present them in the movie, but without them, well the mood is rather melancholic and even grim.
It is a beautiful movie too, they filmed in English countryside AND in St. Petersburg. I definitely recommend it but I recommend the novel more.