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There has been some criticism of the fact that this film was produced by Ralph Fiennes to give a project to his sister Martha (director) and brother Magnus (original music). Well, if this is the high quality wrought from Fiennes nepotism, we need more such collaborations.
In her feature film directorial debut, Martha Fiennes gives us outstanding imagery, precise period renderings, innovative camera work, and dramatic lighting. The locations, sets, costumes and props were fabulous. I especially loved the furniture. The scenes on the dock by the mill in the fog were eerie and chilling. One shot of Liv Tyler in a rowboat, shot through out-of-focus reeds in the foreground, was pure art. The extreme close-up of the inking of the love letter added to the power of the emotions being written. Remi Adefarasin (Elizabeth') added wondrous cinematography to the list of filmmaking kudos.
Ralph Fiennes delivers another superb performance as Evgeny. In the early scenes, he is cavalier, self absorbed, and arrogant to the point of being despicable. His stoical dismissal of Tatyana was ice cold. In the later scenes, he delivers a character so pathetically tormented by love that he wins back our sympathies.
This is by far the best performance I have seen by Liv Tyler. She was poised, graceful and lovely, and gave an extremely dignified performance. With this role, she has proven that she can move beyond the troubled teen type and play a character with substance.
This is intelligent and inspired filmmaking. I rated it a 9/10. The pacing is deliberate, so action junkies will want to pass on this film. However, for those who can savor a compelling love story with splendid imagery, this film should not be missed.
The personal drama unfolds against the fascinating backdrop of the subtly changing society of 19th Century Russia, a country that, then and now, has seemed to be always several centuries behind its European neighbors in its moves towards liberalization in the areas of basic human and civil rights. We see clearly the struggle between the empty ritualism and entrenched barbarism of the past, as reflected in the continuing institution of serfdom and in gun duels fought over affairs of honor, and the enlightened philosophy of the coming world, as many young aristocrats begin to champion both the abolition of serfdom and the growing acceptance of love as the foundation of marriage. Indeed, the two young lovers cannot extricate themselves from the entanglements that often accompany a time unsure of its traditions. Onegin, for all his talk about freeing his serfs, is himself forced to participate in a duel that both horrifies and disgusts him. And Tatyana, for all her comments about only marrying a man she loves, succumbs to the pressure of tradition, ultimately agreeing to a marriage based on class, money and position. Here are two people caught in a world not yet ready for them, who are forced to settle for the compromises their society has deemed fit and proper.
This well-acted, well-written and well-directed film may seem a bit slow at times, but the intelligence of the dialogue, the subtle underplaying of the cast and the quiet beauty of much of the direction lead us into a strange world of the past that still has resonance and relevance for the world of today.
The lead acting is superb! Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler are so good that they unfortunately show up everybody else. The setting, however, does not have much of a Russian feel to it, what with everybody trying to act French and all, which is very accurate to the time. (Thank *you* Peter the Great.)
As for the story, the movie is very faithful to the Pushkinian attitude. The story is very character-centred, typical to Russian lit. The change in Evgenyi Onegin (pronounced, "Yev-geh-ny Ah-nye-gin") is marked indeed. However, the character of Tatyana captivated me. Her faithfulness to herself and to her integrity, especially given the context of American film, is amazing. How refreshing to see a character turn down the opportunity to have an affair with the man she loves deeply out of loyalty and faithfulness to her husband whom she unfortunately doesn't really love. This is especially refreshing in light of prevailing attitudes towards marriage and in particular adultery. Liv Tyler portrays both the deep angst and yet the firm conviction of Tatyana beautifully.
I recommend this film heartily. I gave it a 10 in my rating, and I encourage anyone to view this film to escape the prevailing American Bruce Willis-type formula film, and allow this film to expand your perceptions and your mind, and to enjoy the challenge of seeing people grow, and thereby encourage yourself to do the same.
Besides an excellent cast and story, the scenery and majesty of the film is amazing. Filmed in England and Russia, the film gives viewers, a feast for the eyes. The camera work is so well done and every shot is done with such care and precision that it is absolutely breathtaking. Director Martha Finnes has truly outdone herself. The score by Magnus Finnes is also terrific and adds so much depth and feeling to the story.
The costumes are also something to be commended, they are so gorgeous and well made. Bottom line is: great movie for anyone who appreciates good literature and a good period drama. This movie moves along very slowly so action fans beware. However, romance lovers, don't miss this film. 9/10