Ryevsk, Russia, 1870. Tensions abound in the Karamazov family. Fyodor is a wealthy libertine who holds his purse strings tightly. His four grown sons include Dmitri, the eldest, an elegant ...
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J. Lee Thompson
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Ryevsk, Russia, 1870. Tensions abound in the Karamazov family. Fyodor is a wealthy libertine who holds his purse strings tightly. His four grown sons include Dmitri, the eldest, an elegant officer, always broke and at odds with his father, betrothed to Katya, herself lovely and rich. The other brothers include a sterile aesthete, a factotum who is a bastard, and a monk. Family tensions erupt when Dmitri falls in love with one of his father's mistresses, the coquette Grushenka. Two brothers see Dmitri's jealousy of their father as an opportunity to inherit sooner. Acts of violence lead to the story's conclusion: trials of honor, conscience, forgiveness, and redemption. Written by
I have never read The Brothers Karamazov. I have always been under the impression that the novel is too long, probably preachy, and most probably boring. Therefore, I put off seeing this film, even though most of my friends and family gushed about it whenever I watched anything with Yul Brynner on it (Anastasia, Ten Commandments). When I came to New York as a graduate student, though, it happened that my roommate was an even bigger Brynner fan than I, and I soon found myself in what amounted to a one week Brynner marathon. The Brothers Karamazov was the 2nd film we watched. And I loved it. It felt strange to think so back then, and it feels strange to write it now. But I loved it.
As a fan of both Classic films and literary classics (I haven't read Brothers Karamazov, but I have read several other classics, and thoroughly enjoyed them), I know that the first is almost always 180º apart from the latter. No one needs to tell me this film is probably only 20% of the original novel, and changed/re-arranged to boot. Doesn't matter. I still enjoyed it. I have never watched a film classic that so moved me, drew me in, and made me forget that the year was 1958. Brynner is at his most vulnerable here, and the actors portraying his brothers all did top-notch jobs (such a good job, in fact, that I was able to watch William Shatner -Captain Kirk to anyone remotely Trekkie- without even chuckling), as well as the leading ladies. Mr. Cobb deserved his Oscar. What a wonderful performance. The man must've had a blast playing Fyodor Karamazov; he cavorts about with energy and flair. The best scenes are whenever he is on screen with all four sons around him, although I liked this film so much that, at this point, "favourite scenes" would include 90% of the film.
Truly a wonderful work. Don't hesitate, as I did, to treat yourself to this cinematic jewel.
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