Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (Blu-ray)
ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL is a film that will be labeled “bad” by many audience members, mainly because its dry, melodramatic plot inches along at a snail’s pace. Any argument against that label will be met with much opposition as even the most patient moviegoer will find themselves checking their watch and rubbing their eyes while waiting for something to finally happen. And when something finally does happen, it will feel very anti-climatic considering what you just witnessed. But the shame of it all is that director Dover Koshashvili told and shot the story very well. It just happened to be a story no one wanted to hear.
Andrew Scott is Laevsky; a traditional literary character that feels wronged by his surroundings and his status, even though his self-entitlement seems completely unjustified. He’s held up in a small town with his married mistress Nadia, with whom he has no love or interest since her husband has just died. Laevsky is the proverbial thorn in the side of the Darwinian zoologist Von Koren, who feels Laevsky is both a coward and menace for his drunken nights and mistreatment of Nadia. After more than an hour of setting up the finale, the feud between Laevsky and Von Koren comes to a head when Von Koren challenges Laevsky to a duel.
As alluded to earlier, the trouble with the film is that absolutely nothing happens. The attention is on Laevsky, who is a completely dreadful character. He’s rude, obnoxious and drunk for almost the entire film. Nadia isn’t much better as her role is that of the victim, but given her promiscuous manners and the sheer fact she’s a married woman shacking up with a drunken buffoon, we have a hard time sympathizing with her. Von Koren is supposed to be the representation of “good” in the film, but he comes off pompous and self-righteous, too concerned with hating Laevsky and not concerned enough for the well-being of anyone else around him. By the time “the duel” came around, I was hoping they would manage to shoot everyone around them and then shoot each other; the people of this town needed to be put out of their misery.
Newcomers to the work of Anton Chekhov will not be impressed by THE DUEL, but it’s not really a book that would make a good movie in the first place. The themes are too subtle and the characters are more metaphorical than literal in their creation of moods rather than actions. Translating that on film is nearly impossible as director Dover Koshashvili found out. Sure, the performances were great and the settings were beautiful, but the story was too dull and the pace was too slow to make anyone appreciate them.
Video: This is a bit of a dull transfer, which is disappointing given the scenery was the biggest positive of the film.
Audio: No complaints on the audio front.
There are no other special features included.