6.9/10
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60 user 46 critic

The Luzhin Defence (2000)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 8 September 2000 (UK)
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2:13 | Trailer

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

Director:

Marleen Gorris

Writers:

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

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

His love dictates every move.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Country:

UK | France

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

8 September 2000 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Luzhin Defense See more »

Filming Locations:

Hungary See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$63,203, 22 April 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,051,811, 26 August 2001
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin: As Pushkin's doomed duelist said, "Let's start if you're willing."
See more »

Soundtracks

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
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User Reviews

 
Possibly, the most romantic and allegoric poem-as-movie I have ever seen
27 April 2002 | by herbqediSee all my reviews

Emily Watson's Natalia is absolutely the most loving and romantic lead character I have ever seen on a screen. She is the queen of this film beyond all doubt. Or, is she transmuted to the king? The internecine weaving of the chess games and the families' struggles for control, power, and victory is stunning. Just as the chess masters in the film do, the director is playing many simultaneous games with our mind at once, but all weave into either major or minor patterns. The period, the costumes, and imagery of early 20th century Italy's lake district is captured magnificently. Not a single square of space is wasted.

So many brilliant scenes abound, I cannot recount them all. I recommend budgeting enough time to watch this movie twice, possibly a week apart, because you can't possibly capture all the poetry within a 64-square yet multi-dimensional framework in one setting.

I did not read Nabakov's book, but to try an analogy of my own, what I am reading reminds of me of another romantically triumphant poetry-as-game movie, Barry Levinson's The Natural. It totally jettisoned the downbeat ending of Bernard Malamud's fatalistic book in favor of a romantic impressionism that was uniquely American. Well, the director did that one better by seamlessly meshing Russian and Italian morals and mores as a backdrop to enlightenment. The true story here is that games are zero-sum; there is a winner and a loser, unless both contestants draw. But, in life, and especially in the context of our immortal souls, we are only limited by those constraints and life's conventions to the extent we let others break our spirit.

Pure love, as personified by Emily Watson's Natalia, can transcend and allow all of us to be enhanced by its gifts simultaneously. Only the barriers erected by our fears can cut us off from it.

This is a magnificent movie (10/10).


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