The packaging for this 1984 film about the death of Leo Tolstoy appears to match that of the 1954 film biography listed at IMDb, but this is not really a biography, it is an account of the final two years of Leo Tolstoy's life. There are flashbacks and other devices to show how Tolstoy's life up to this point brought him to the state of mind he was in around the time of his death. Much is made of his feelings of guilt about his wealth, and his view of the failings of charity and kindness shown by wealthy persons who gain their wealth through exploitation of workers.
The portrayal of his wife is especially unflattering, but Tolstoy himself comes across as a person who isn't very good at getting along with other people. His spiritual selfishness and heavy-handed rule over his family is contrasted with his sensitivity to the injustices of the wider world. The film shows Tolstoy as a person who can love abstract ideals or generalities about people, but has difficulty in actually loving real people (such as his family). Was Tolstoy really such a pompous old goat in his later years? I'm not an expert, but from reading a couple biographies and comparing what I've read of his later works to his earlier writing I suspect that this film may have some accuracy in its portrayal.
I enjoyed the film as an historical specimen of mid-1980s Soviet cinema, and as a Russian portrayal of what the Russian empire was in 1907-1909. It's an interesting film. There are some good lines, such as Tolstoy sitting with some family members and being visited by a noble guest, and quipping about Frederick the Great being the greatest king of Germany, but even he (Frederick) couldn't stand the Germans. A comment that might have significance considering the contempt Russian nobility had for the serfs, or the preference for French over Russian as a court language in the early 20th Century.
I don't understand Russian, so I was at the mercy of the subtitles, and found it irritating that many comments went untranslated (I can recognize the basic Russian greetings and so forth, but these untranslated bits didn't seem like meaningless comments, and without a subtitle I don't know if I was missing something).
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?