Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Directed by Dover Kosashvili.

Based on the short story by Anton Chekhov. In a quaint town by the seaside, Laevsky (Andrew Scott), a government official, lives with his married mistress, Nadya (Fiona Glascott), while her husband is away. Little does she know, at least for now, that he husband has died. During a meeting at a restaurant with his friend, Samoylenko (Niall Buggy), Laevsky asks him for advice about the best way to tell Nadya that he wants to leave her, especially before she learns about her husband’s death. Von Koren (Tobias Menzies), a zoologist, overhears that conversation and immediately develops an aversion toward Laevsky because of his sinful thoughts which cause him to look down upon him and, in turn, to challenge him to the titular duel. Laevsky, in the eyes of Von Koren, is an immoral, degenerate person who’s a stain on the human race not only for his plans to leave Nadya, but for compulsively gambling and drinking, which, not surprisingly, leads him to experience financial woes. If Von Koren’s analysis of Laevsky were so accurate and simple, though, because Von Koren should speak for himself: he behaves arrogantly, inconsiderately and rudely toward Laevsky, so he’s certainly no role model. The screenplay by Mary Bing fails to bring any of the characters to life because of stilted dialogue that often sounds awkward and inorganic, even given the colloquialisms of the late 19th Century. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the scenery, set designs, costumes and the choice colors adds some richness and vibrancy to the film, especially given the attention to intricate details all of which look authentic to that particular time period and, at times, feel breathtaking to admire on the big screen. Fiona Glascott gives a radiant, well-nuanced performance as the genuinely beautiful, graceful yet fragile and imperfect Nadya. She’s the heart and soul of the film and, during her emotional breakdown in one particular scene, you’ll find yourself somewhat sympathizing with her. At a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, The Duel manages to be a character-driven, sporadically tender drama filled with breathtaking scenery, exquisite production values and a radiant performance by the genuinely beautiful Fiona Glascott, but suffers from stilted, awkward dialogue that often keeps you at an emotional distance from ts flawed characters.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by High Line Pictures.
Opens at the Film Forum.

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