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* Contains spoilers * This film was seen at, and has been reviewed for, Cambridge Film Festival (UK) in September 2012 It will be clear early on, when we meet Prince Myshkin during a journey, that pews in the aisle of what turns out to be a very large church are representing a railway-carriage. (His title means next to nothing at this stage, in practical terms, for he is penniless.) However, arrival at the destination and coming face to face with a neon-fuelled icon is enough to show that we are not going to be playing with physical spaces (as in Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003), but transforming them.
Moreover, they are discreet, identifiably different spaces, and, without leaving the building at any point, we will see a flower-garden and the sea. Yet, as Dostoyevsky's novel runs to at least 700 pages, and we have a little over two hours, we must necessarily concentrate on what most centrally concerns Myshkin. Played by Risto Kübar, we learn early on of his medical history, about which - this is his complete and utter nature - he is unnecessarily open, and its manifests itself, as the role is played, as a helplessly shimmering passivity.
All the more contrast, which is at the heart of the book, not just with his distant relative's husband and family, but with the vibrancy, to everyone's cost, of Nastasja Filippovna, which it would have been tempting for Katariina Unt to overdo. The adaptation and direction by Rainer Sarnet have taken risks, but confined them, leaving the abiding feeling that the claustrophobic nature of the setting, with all its overtones of the influence of the church on convention and conduct, has strengthened the telling of the central part of Myshkin's story.
My only regret is being so tired during this screening, which, through my fault, detracted from the compelling nature of the production.
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