The Countess Sofya Andreevna Tolstoy (Dame Helen Mirren), wife and muse to Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), uses every trick of seduction on her husband's loyal disciple, whom she believes was the person responsible for Tolstoy signing a new will that leaves his work and property to the Russian people.Written by
There is nothing to fault in this movie, really, and pretty much everything to praise.
The script is very good. The characters are fleshed out and developed in complexity as the movie goes along. You continue to learn more about them, see more facets of their character.
And they are realized by first-rate performances. There is not a weak one in the batch.
The direction is also very fine. There is not really much of a plot here; it's more of a character study. Still, the director keeps things moving along, never veering into the sentimental or the cute. You grow to like these characters a lot, but there is no attempt to yank your emotions.
My only very slight reservation about this movie is just a personal preference. I went into it knowing virtually nothing about Tolstoy's life or the movement that was developed out of his later writings. I would have appreciated a little dialogue somewhere explaining more about that. I realize, however, that that is not the norm in modern movies, and I certainly had no problems following what was going on without it. Viewers such as myself will just have to go read a book about Tolstoy for that additional information, which is certainly not a bad thing.
This is not a film for the ages, a Citizen Kane or a Rules of the Game, a Potemkin or such. Still, it is a very well-crafted movie, one that I could easily watch again with no diminished pleasure. One that, as well, I can recommend to anyone who enjoys good acting and watching interesting characters being developed by and through it.
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