Crime and Punishment (1998 TV Movie)
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With this as a psychological backdrop, he gets the news that his sister has been discharged from her governess position and she is considering marrying a rich man she doesn't love to keep the family from starving. He reasons that he, being a great man, must take action to prevent this travesty. So he decides he should kill his pawnbroker, a despicable woman who preys on the misfortune of others, and take her money to save his sister from prostituting herself in this terrible marriage. He reasons that the pawn broker deserves to die anyway, and that his sister's future is far more important. The remainder of the story is a study in the torment and guilt he feels, and from which he cannot escape intellectually.
The film remains true to the novel, which is one of the classics of Russian literature. It is well directed, filmed in Poland to give it an authentic eastern European look. Joseph Sargent does an excellent job of capturing the rank poverty of the time in contrast to the opulence of the privileged.
This is Patrick Dempsey's shining moment, by far the best I've ever seen him. He does a terrific job of capturing the overwrought Rodya's agony and emotional distraction. Although Dempsey was sometimes overly manic in his portrayal, this is one of the most complex characters in literature and it is impossible to imagine anyone getting him just the way Dostoyevsky wrote him. Dempsey has come a long way since the Woo Woo Kid (`In The Mood', 1987).
Ben Kingsley was also terrific as the wily police chief who suspects Rodya of the crime, but with no evidence, cleverly manipulates his psyche to make the guilt unbearable.
I rated this film a 9/10. It is no substitute for reading the novel, but in comparison to most of what is on the market, this is a gem. Most refined viewers will not regret renting this film.
Beginning with the positives, Crime and Punishment has a fairly powerful cast with the exception of Patrick Dempsey. Julie Delpy plays an excellent Sonia, and Ben Kingsley could not have done a better Porfiry. The cast were great for their parts, unfortunately the actual movie wasn't too great in terms of quality film-making.
Without knowing any prior history to the movie (or the book for that matter), one can easily see that this was made for TV. The cheesy "spacing out" effects only used in TV are an abundance in Crime and Punishment. It is most noticeable in Rodya's moments of despair and depression. The overall impression of this version of Crime and Punishment is much more different than what I saw in my mind while reading the book. The words in the novel are dark, gritty, and full of heart. The movie is very simple and it's almost always in broad daylight! If anything, all scenes should be shot in nighttime 99% of the time since darkness relatively symbolizes desperation and grim moments.
Patrick Dempsey, as much of a sweetheart as he is, is NOT Rodya Raskolnikov. Rodya is a rough man, not a pansy. This was a complete casting error that ruined his character's complexity entirely.
For what it's worth, Crime and Punishment makes for a decent straight-to-television movie. If one is looking for justice to the book, let your imagination run wild. After all, an imagination is a much more powerful tool than a cheesy television film. Too much was changed in the transition from the book to the little screen. That was the crime. Watching this as a faithful Dostoyevski fan was the punishment.
The film focus is on Rodya, a young atheist student who mixes social idealism (a theological given) with delusions of grandeur. He perceives that morality is an absolute, yet entertains the idea that it is purely social and that he himself is above the moral law "like Napoleon". At one stage he risks his life to save two unknown children; late he murders two known women (intentionally, evil Alena, & unintentionally, her good sister, Elizaveta) in his anger against injustice & desperation to get Alena's ill-gotten gold to save his sister (Dounia) from an economic marriage he fears.
To a large extent the story follows the aftermath of his murders. It never successfully comes to a point where he repents of murdering the old parasitical crone Alena, although her dying has haunted him. He slides into paranoia and away from his former idealism, though still acts as benefactor to the Marmeladov family. His self-belief (supermen don't get caught) has been shaken, and the police chief (Porfiry) investigating the sisters' murders perturbs him. (I felt it unclear whether Porfiry wishes Rodya an unalloyed "get it off your chest" wellness, or also has a greedy eye for stolen gold. Indeed I felt a number of loose ends were left. This encourages one to read the book!)
Spiritually drowning, "a monster", Rodya asks Sonia Marmeladova to help him resurface through a Lazarus' experience (cf. John ch.11). She, earlier forced into prostitution to feed her family, has had a Bible given by Elizaveta, and believes that God alone, or at least Faith alone, can save Rodya, whom she is deeply gratefully to, and probably would marry for love. She says that repentance leading to confession of his crime, inviting civil punishment, is the key to saving his soul. If he will dare this road, she will walk with him "to the ends of the earth" they end up in a Siberian prison camp, he a prisoner, she a nurse.
In the camp a chaplain raises the cry, "Christ is risen". Russian Orthodoxy was a key element in Russian society, yet it is probably true to say that Rodya's salvation is merely of the soul (psyche), not quite of the spirit. Still a movement in the right direction. Human loves can reflect (the Sonia factor), and thus point to, transcendent love, though in themselves become demonic as the murders show (the Alena factor).
Issues such as class divides, the problem of pain within theism, and morality as transcendent vs mere convenience, are hinted at but not fully explored. The acting is good, though a message rather than story is the focus. There are interesting subplots & characters: Dounia's former co-employer (Arkady) is besotted by her simple beauty, and while prepared to betray his wife is not prepared to rape, ending his own life in his despair in failing to win her love which he imagined would give his life meaning Dounia lovingly marries Dimitri (aka 'Reason'), her brother's best friend and a nephew to Porfiry.
Ben Kingsley is correct in the skin of a proteic character. Patrik Dempsy is a special Raskolnikof, victim of desire to show every aspect of a silent crisis. But what instrument is perfect for the Russian soul examination? "Crime and punishment" is not a great TV movie. It is not a reject or a boring piece of weekend afternoon. Corect, without any ambition, it is fairy description of a impressive literary creation. But is it enough? Maybe for the public who ignore the book because the movie is, in fact, only a noble intention.
Delpy and Kingsley aside, this adaptation of Crime and Punishment doesn't work at all, as an adaptation or as a film as a standalone. Dostoevsky is not easy to adapt, in fact his work is quite difficult to do so, but that isn't an excuse for the story and characterisation being so lacking. The script is of a poor quality, with flat soap-opera-ish dialogue, delivery that was a mix of melodramatic and awkward and little attempt to keep to the tone or spirit of Dostoevsky's writing (only about 3 or 4 bits I properly recognised) or the style and themes that made his work distinctive. The characters no longer have their complexity, but not only are they written in a one-dimensional way but they are also grossly distorted; Raskolnikov is reduced from someone anguished by guilt to someone on the verge of a psychotic breakdown and secondary characters like Louzhin reduced to stereotypes. As a result, we never get to know these characters or why they do what they do, therefore the film fails to elicit any sympathy or even care for them.
Admittedly, the story was disadvantaged to begin with by a too short length and an apparent heavy-cutting, and it shows quite badly here, it feeling incredibly rushed and choppy. It's completely devoid of suspense and psychological tension (even in the scenes between Raskolnikov and Porfiry, something and components that were done brilliantly in the two 1935 film adaptations), characters have very little- almost aimless- chemistry between them and the romantic subplot not only doesn't engage due to sloppy writing and lacking chemistry between Delpy and Patrick Dempsey but it slows the film down. Condensing and omissions were always going to be inevitable (the two 1935 film adaptations did too but not as badly), but the spirit and substance that makes the story so good are totally absent here, basic scenes are still intact but with none of the impact they ought but other key scenes are either greatly condensed or excised, to the extent that it did not feel like Dostoevsky. And to add further insult to injury, the adaptation even adds parts that have absolutely nothing to do with the story, including an opening sequence that was irrelevant, anachronistic and immediately distorted Raskolnikov's character.
Patrick Dempsey tries his best as Raskolnikov, but his performance is filled to the brim with erratic, painfully overwrought melodrama that it's almost uncomfortable to watch him, failing to properly bring out the character's conflicts. Richard Bremmer is just okay, but would have been better if the character was better and fully realised. Hungarian actors aside, the accents are laid on too thickly and didn't seem all that necessary. Crime and Punishment's flatly directed and the music has some pleasant parts but is generally forgettable generic TV-quality and not always very subtly used, not adding as much to the atmosphere as it could have done. Production values-wise, the costumes and sets are decent, though don't ever really convince as 19th century Russia, but the photography is too glossy and too modern, the film was made for TV and especially in the photography it looks it.
Overall, very bad and hugely disappointing, a definite contender for the worst adaptation of a Dostoevsky novel ever. 2/10 Bethany Cox
And some illuminating instances from the novel, if I remember it accurately after many years, are dropped. A villain slipping a coin into a young woman's dress to make her seem a thief, for instance. I understand that all adaptations have to shorten the original material but, as usual, what gets dropped is the subtle stuff that makes the characters more than categorical types. And not just that. When the drunken old neighbor dies in an accident, the poverty is such that his wife doesn't have enough money to bury him, so she packs up the children, dresses them in rags, and they dance on the street as clowns, hoping for a few coins. They don't make it, and the body in the bed begins to decompose. Man, that's tragedy not just hard times.
Patrick Dempsey is all hairy and sweaty as Roskolnikov. He's projects the guilt alright but lacks the bravado that ought to mask it. Julia Delpy as Sonia the whore does a fine job. As Dunya, the sister, Lili Horvath is pretty but a cipher. Her expression never seems to change, her features frozen.
Outstanding is Ben Kingsley as Porfiri, the police inspector who intuits Raskolnikov's guilt and plays on it with good-natured hospitality and reassurances that he, Raskolnikov, is not a suspect. Until finally Porfiri reveals that he knows who did it. In the translation I read, I remember that exchange. Porfiri and Raskolnikov have been discussing the murder for some time and, piqued, Raskolnikov asks who committed the crime. Porfiri looks up in surprise and says with some wonderment, "Why, YOU did, Raskolnikov." In this movie, the conversation is different and Kingsley gets to toss the accusation off with a reference to "the murderer, who is, of course, you." There is a close up of Kingsley's face when he makes this statement but there have been so many close ups previously that some of the power is drained from the shot. Still, that game of cat and mouse between the murderer and the inspector is a delight, especially among so much gloom.
You know who handled the role of Porfiri as well as anyone else -- in any version of this chestnut? Okay. Hold on, because I'm about to reveal my perversions. Well, one of them anyway. Frank Silvera, in "Crime and Punishment, USA," that's who. And, believe it or not, George Hamilton was a perfectly reasonable Raskolnikov too. I'd better stop sharing my perversions now or before I know it I'll be into my collection of fancy goldfish bowls.
Everybody tries hard here. Earnestness is written all over this production. And it isn't terrible. I just wish it had been better, because it's almost like looking into a time capsule -- all the way back to when criminals still had guilt.