Drama based on Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky's homonymous novel about the proud Karamazov family in 1870s Russia.Drama based on Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky's homonymous novel about the proud Karamazov family in 1870s Russia.Drama based on Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky's homonymous novel about the proud Karamazov family in 1870s Russia.
It's not perfect. Sometimes the film is stodgily paced (some might say overlong, not to me, considering the length of the book and the amount of story there is if anything the film's too short). The ending was always going to be a reasonably problematic one, with it in the book being as open-ended as it is, but this viewer couldn't help shake off the feeling that the ending felt too rushed and incomplete here. Most of the casting came off surprisingly well, but there were reservations about Maria Schell, despite her alluring appearance and her impressively played early scenes she was generally too genteel for Grushenka, a role that was in need of more earthiness and peasant-like.
However, The Brothers Karamazov looks great, with lavish colour photography and an evocative re-creation of the opulent but also gritty 19th-century Russia period. It's scored with a stirring yet also understated richness by Bronislau Kaper, and does benefit from controlled direction by Richard Brooks and a literate script that really provokes though and, even when condensed with the essence and the religious and philosophical themes missing, makes an effort to keep to Dostoevsky's tone of writing and giving the film substance. It is not an easy job adapting a nearly 800 page book into a two-and-a-half hour film, and while not completely successful due, to feeling sometimes like highlights being present but not always to their full potential and major characters being significantly reduced (Alexei, Zosima) at the expense at focusing primarily on Dmitri, it does so laudably. It is still mostly riveting and there wasn't much trouble following the story, with the major events depicted and structured relatively faithfully, and there is enough atmosphere, suspense, emotion and mystery to give the story some flavour.
From the acting front, the film comes off surprisingly successfully considering that initially there were a couple of actors that seemed unlikely casting (i.e. William Shatner). The two that came off the most strongly were Yul Brynner and Lee J. Cobb. Brynner is very charismatic and gives the right emotional intensity and vulnerability, while Cobb gives his patriarchal role so much juice and life, his demeanour sometimes even quite intimidating (the role is a problematic one due to being one that could easily fall into overacted caricature, Cobb admittedly does overact but enjoyably and the character still felt real. Richard Basehart brings many layers and nuances to Ivan, Claire Bloom is spot-on as Katya and Albert Salmi is effectively insidious as Smerdyakov. William Shatner does suffer from a greatly reduced (in terms of how he's written) character, but surprisingly this is Shatner at his most subdued and moving, most of the time in his acting for personal tastes he's the opposite.
All in all, pales in comparison to the masterpiece that is the book but it is a brave attempt. Taking it on its own merits, which is a fairer way to judge, The Brothers Karamazov has short-comings but is a solid film overall. 7/10 Bethany Cox
- Jul 15, 2015