Two worlds collide when an eccentric genius falls in love with a strong-willed society beauty.


Marleen Gorris


Vladimir Nabokov (novel), Peter Berry (screenplay by)
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
John Turturro ... Luzhin
Emily Watson ... Natalia
Geraldine James ... Vera
Stuart Wilson ... Valentinov
Christopher Thompson Christopher Thompson ... Stassard
Fabio Sartor ... Turati
Peter Blythe ... Ilya
Orla Brady ... Anna
Mark Tandy ... Luzhin's Father
Kelly Hunter ... Luzhin's Mother
Alexander Hunting Alexander Hunting ... Young Luzhin
Alfredo Pea Alfredo Pea ... 1st Official
Fabio Pasquini Fabio Pasquini ... 2nd Official
Luigi Petrucci Luigi Petrucci ... Santucci
Carlo Greco Carlo Greco ... Hotel Manager


Set in the late 1920s, The Luzhin Defence tells the story of a shambling, unworldly chess Grand Master who arrives in the Italian Lakes to play the match of his life and unexpectedly finds the love of his life. Discovering his prodigious talent in boyhood overshadowed by his parents' failing marriage, Luzhin's lyrical passion for chess has become his refuge and rendered the real world a phantom. Already matched up by her family to the very suitable Comte de Stassard, when Natalia meets Luzhin, she is drawn to the erratic genius and offers him a glimpse outside of his chess obsession. But it is a world he is not equipped to deal with and his two worlds collide to tragic effect. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His love dictates every move.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and thematic elements | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In his game as white against an unnamed opponent before the final, Luzhin is shown supposedly checkmating with Rd1-d8, which is an illegal move because his rook at d1 is pinned against his king on h1 by black's rook at c1. See more »


Vera: He's defiled you already, hasn't he? That's why you're rushing this ridiculous marriage. You're carrying his child.
See more »


Waltz 2
from "Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2"
Composed by Dmitri Shostakovich (as Dimitri Shostakovich)
Performed by Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (as Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra)
Conducted by Riccardo Chailly
By permission of Boosey & Hawkes Licensing
Courtesy of Decca Record Label Ltd.
Under license from Universal Special Markets
(p) 1992 Decca Records
See more »

User Reviews

A quiet (not your ordinary) love story with beautiful film score by Alexandre Desplat
13 May 2001 | by ruby_fffSee all my reviews

Walking home after the film, I was humming the familiar waltz music that Natalia and Alexandre were dancing to. I've heard that before - where? Ah, from Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" (track 2), 'got it just as I arrived at the door. It's "Waltz No. 2 from Jazz Suite No. 2" composed by Dimitri Shostakovich, performed here by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Yes, I went and picked up the soundtrack from Tower's. What a treat! The film score by Alexandre Desplat was fulfilling - there are fifteen tracks besides two tracks of the delightful waltz. It's not often these days we get a soundtrack entirely dedicated to a comprehensive film score. Reminds me of favorite scores by Maurice Jarre, Ennio Morricone (beginning notes of track 6 have traces of "Nuovo cinema Paradiso"), Georges Delerue, and John Barry. There are subtle nuances of strains and notes from the strings, celeste, piano, and harp.

Emily Watson and John Turturro delivered a credibly consuming paired performance. The love story, their intimate connection, is very much between Alexandre and Natalia - his childlike yet tormenting inner world, and her generous and bold understanding of him - a relationship alone to them both. Director Marleen Gorris of "Antonia's Line" (1996 Academy Award's Best Foreign Language Film from the Netherlands) gave us a quietly sensitive film - not without its unsettling human conflicts, intrigues, obsessions, family strives, lovingness and respect. The front-end subject is the mind-game and mathematical logic of chess. Beneath it can be a mild tearjerker of a drama set in the late 1920's. Cinematography captures the serene beauty of Lake Como in northern Italy near the Swiss border.

I highly recommend the soundtrack if you don't feel like going to the movies. Alexandre Desplat's lyrical film score of "The Luzhin Defence" is complete.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 62 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.



UK | France


English | Italian

Release Date:

8 September 2000 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Luzhin Defense See more »

Filming Locations:

Hungary See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$63,203, 22 April 2001

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed