Onegin (1999) Poster


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A trip back in time
Michael Radcliffe28 June 2000
Any film that opens with a carriage on runners being pulled through the snow has got to try really hard to fail. My wife and I spent the whole of this film entranced by the scenery, the exquisitely detailed sets and costumes, superb performances by all of the cast with a refreshingly thoughtful and adult dialogue and several surprising twists in the story. Liv Tyler delivered the most sensual performance I have seen in a film for quite a few years proving that you don't have to be naked and sweaty to stimulate an audience! I have not read the original story but I think this film may do for russian novelists what the recent spate of period dramas have done for Shakespeare and Jane Austen. The pacing of the film is slow and salubrious but definitely not plodding (sic. Angela's Ashes) You will be left wanting more but any more would spoil the plot. Don't miss it. Full marks.
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Splendid and inspired
FlickJunkie-231 July 2000
This is a truly wonderful film. It is an adaptation of the 19th century romantic poem by Alexander Pushkin about the tragic love affair between Evgeny Onegin (Ralph Fiennes) and Tatyana Larina (Liv Tyler). Evgeny has inherited his uncle's provincial estate and goes to the country to put his affairs in order. While there, he befriends Vladimir (Toby Stevens) who introduces him to Tatyana, the sister of his fiancé. Tatyana falls madly in love with Evgeny, but he brutally rejects her and leaves to return to St. Petersburg. Upon returning years later to find her married, his regrets ignite into a passionate and obsessive love for her.

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.
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interesting romantic drama
Roland E. Zwick18 August 2000
Fine performances highlight `Onegin,' a generally interesting version of Pushkin's complex love story whose contemporary significance shines through the tortured souls of its two main characters. Ralph Fiennes stars in the title role as a 19th Century Russian aristocrat who, like many similar figures in Russian literature of that time, suffers from the attenuating effects of enervation and ennui. Though the recipient of vast sums of wealth and property at the death of his uncle, Onegin finds no meaning or solace in life as he lives it. He is as bored by the stifling superficiality of the privileged elite languishing in splendor in the fancy halls and glittering ballrooms of cosmopolitan St. Petersburg as he is by the domestic dreariness of the provincials residing in the bucolic countryside where one of his uncle's vast estates is located. In the latter setting, while visiting Vladimir - a poet he has recently befriended - Onegin becomes drawn to Tatyana the beautiful younger sister of the man's fiancé. Both Onegin and Tatyana reflect a remarkably modern sensibility in their temperaments. For instance, though the attraction between the two is a mutual one, it is Tatyana who makes the first move, pouring out her unbridled love for this newcomer in a letter which Onegin politely rejects because he fears the deadening of the soul that he believes will inevitably accompany marriage and fidelity. One can't get much more contemporary in tone than these two characters, one stepping well out of the accustomed bounds accorded her sex in affairs of romance and the other reflecting the fear of commitment that is such a staple of modern times. Yet, fate plays its cruelest hand at the end, as Onegin finds himself, years later, trapped in an ironic role reversal as the now-married Tatyana is forced to rebuff the advances of the obsessed, lovelorn man whom she still admits to loving. As in many bleak works of Russian literature, the character is forced to live out his existence in a hell of his own making, suffering the torment of regret without end.

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.
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It's a Pushkin poem; what more can you ask for?
va3svd16 March 2003
Excellent film!!! I was captivated by it, however, my wife fell asleep during the film. For those who enjoy Russian literature, this movie will captivate you; for those who have no exposure to it, it will not. So your preestablished experience will determine to a great extent your appreciation of this film.

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.
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Hauntingly beautiful and completely mesmerizing!
angles92424 August 2000
This is truly a great and wonderful film! A marvelous adaptation of Alexander Pushkin's classic story about the love and obsession of Eygney Onegin for the beautiful Tantianna Ladin. Ralph Finnes is the young,dashing and playboy Onegin, who goes to settle his deceased uncle's estate in the country. There, he meets the young and beautiful Tantianna Ladin, played astonishingly well and seductively by Liv Tyler. Their love sets off a chain of tragic events that will forever alter their lives. A great tear jerker!

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
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very well-done period romance, spectacular visuals
Amy Adler30 May 2003
This film is a visual delight and a faithful adaptation of the famous Pushkin poem. The story revolves around a country woman who falls for a sophisticated man. Starring handsome Ralph Fiennes as the title character and winsome Liv Tyler as his star-crossed love interest, viewers will get caught up in the ebb and flow of the romance, as well as the innovative and beautiful techniques of film-making. ( A scene where Liv Tyler's character writes a letter is spectacular.) As the first setting in the desolate countryside gives way to the bustling city of St. Petersburg in the second half, change and surprise is integral to the slow, well-developed storyline. See it for Fiennes performance and the talents of his sister and brother who directed and scored the film, respectively. Recommended as a great film for a winter's evening by the fire.
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Very good
old-tuchka3 October 2000
This is a very good film overall. Having grown up in Russia and being, as we would say here, `a great Pushkin's fan' ;-), I was caught between curiosity and caution when deciding whether I should even rent this film. Then I saw Ralph Fiennes name and thought that it could not be all that curiosity won. I was pleasantly surprised that the film is fairly faithful to the original. Not completely, of course, but when I think about horrible mutilations other filmmakers perform on marvelous works of literature, I'm very grateful that the producers of `Onegin' read the poem very well and chose scenes and changed some of them with care. I won't talk a lot about beauty of scenes in the film: it's a pleasure to watch. Here are some of the things I didn't like. First of all I was a little disappointed by the film's interiors. Several of them look very natural (some of the room's in Larin's and Onegin's houses). Others (like Petersburg palaces) more than anything resemble theatrical decorations. I don't think this was intentional, since the overall scenery is very realistic. Another objection is the lovemaking scene. I don't think it belongs or was needed at all. Was it just a due paid to modern filmmaking? Why not do Tatyana's dream instead (this is a meaningful symbolic scene in the poem, not filming it could hardly be an accidental decision, I would love to know what was the reason)? The third, kind of big problem is that married Tatyana is not clearly portrayed as the queen of Petersburg's society. This detail is very important for understanding of Onegin's character: a tragic figure who can only exist within the laws and decorations of high society - the very society he despises more than anything else. Tatyana, the queen of this society, a complete part of it and yet completely not involved with it, comfortably within and yet far above the chattering crowd - that very likely is the only thing Onegin can love. Unfortunately the question `am I noble enough for you now?' which Tatyana throws at Onegin during the climax scene of the film, does not fully convey that understanding and is an oversimplification compared to the speech that Pushkin's Tatyana gives to her fallen and still loved hero.
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Brooding, visual masterpiece!
Peegee-321 July 2000
Although I saw this film several months ago, its images and characters remain vividly with me. Martha Fiennes, as a first time feature director, certainly understands the visual medium she is dealing with. The scenes of snow and mist over water, are a significant contrast to the sumptuous indoor scenes, as though nature itself reflects what lies in the human heart...that all the wealth and lavishness created by man cannot assuage. Ms Fiennes very wisely saw this verse play as a vehicle for her talented brother, Ralph. His ability to portray a brooding, alienated...yet passionate man is extraordinary, in my opinion. Although Liv Tyler is very beautiful and was a knock-out in that red ball dress, I wasn't as convinced by her performance as others who have posted here. I would have preferred an English actress, Polly Walker, perhaps. In any case, I loved this film and have every intention of seeing it again.
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A landmark masterpiece, had it been spoken in Russian.
ElianaM15 July 2000
This film is wonderful and beautiful. I was impressed with the amount of user comments, considering the film has not been very popular, and in the Americas, hardly seen, and bashed by critics. It is an almost perfect film rendition of this classic literary work. I recently saw an acclaimed production of the opera Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, and have read Russian literature. This film is a more complete, and captivating experience than the opera or the original verse novel (in translation). However, the true Russian spirit cannot be captured with the entire cast speaking in Etonian British accents. The film should have been released (even in English speaking countries) completely synchronized in Russian (I prefer to say synchronized since the actors in any film are dubbed, the word is very negative, by themselves anyway). Some of the original verses could have been included. The wonderful score by Magnus Fiennes should have been complemented by Tchaikovsky (and not German Beethoven) music, preferably from the newly-popular Onegin opera. With those (very important) revisions, the film would have been the finest example of Russian literature ever brought to the screen.
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Lyrical and passionate
Caledonia Twin #124 October 2000
I have to say that I was a bit hesitant about seeing this film for several reasons. I had read Onegin in the original Russian, and frankly I mistrusted the abilities of a film-maker to convey a true sense of the story and the life and mood of Imperial Russia while also catering to the tastes of modern film audiences. But as a fan of the work of Ralph Fiennes and Toby Stephens, I took the chance on this film, and I am glad that I did. Onegin was fantastic. I have to agree that this film is not for action fans, but everything came together spectacularly in Onegin: the acting, the dialogue, the haunting music, the beautiful cinematography, the subtle timing and angle of each shot in the film. I was, moreover, surprised by the superb acting of Liv Tyler. The high point of the film, with the unveiling of Tatiana's letter and Onegin's growing passion, is well worth the anticipation. Fienne's portrayal of Onegin is realistic, absolutely riveting... He is a man jaded by opulence and overindulgence, trapped in his indolence and boredom, cool and reasoning and underneath it all, absolutely miserable, a man who comes to realize too late what flames of passion burn within him, which he attempts to "beat down with his reason"... His torment creates the most compelling kind of tragedy: the tragedy that compels us to consider what might have been. My rating: 9/10
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