Anton Chekhov's The Duel Reviews
The story is a simple one. The lead character, Lavesky (Andrew Scott), is wholly despicable and someone we don't want to spend time with. He is a ne'er-do-well. He spends his time lying about in the summer heat. He does this, when he is not occupied by drinking or playing cards. He apparently, is employed as a Russian civil servant. But, we rarely see him doing anything that looks like work.
He is living with another man's wife. He has grown tired of her. He spends his time scheming about how to get rid of her. His girlfriend is Nadya (Fiona Glascott). Lucky for the viewer, Ms Glascott is an unusually beautiful woman. He plays her understated role in a very effective manner.
The other principal character of note is Von Koren (Tobias Menzies). He observes the activities of the dissolute Lavesky with increasing anger. And here we find the source of the Duel of the title.
Although the characters were somewhat interesting; there just was not enough to the story to fully engage me. I would not recommend this movie.
But, it does look very good. That was not enough for me.
Everything worth loving about Chekhov - the subtlety, the well-drawn characters, the crises of conscience - is here and filmed beautifully. I especially liked the performance by Andrew Scott as Vanya who performs a scene that is described in the script as "hysterics," but I think the best phrase is an "existential paroxysm." The Duel is a film built on subtext, and it takes a sharp, discerning eye to appreciate why the characters behave as they do, each action sharply motivated.
I thought that the subplot of Vanya's financial difficulties was never resolved, but I suspect that an apologia for this film would suggest that larger existential issues over-weighed money; it's true, but a commitment to solving all his problems would not have been hard to show.
Overall, Anton Chekhov is one of world literature's great writers, and The Duel displays all the great aspects of his work.
With its deliberate pace and excellent cinematography, "The Duel" is an evocative movie that bottles one point in time, allowing us to observe it at our leisure. But then time is never entirely static as the people along with the social mores of the era are evolving however slowly. Also this serves as a valuable reminder that lovers and spouses are two separate categories of people but that does not mean they cannot be loved in the same ways. And who knew a movie based on a work by Anton Chekhov could be so darn sexy?
Director: Dover Koshashvili
Summary: Chekhov's psychological insights and piercing humor illuminate the screen in this beautifully filmed drama about Laevsky (Andrew Scott), a narcissistic civil servant whose impetuous decision to leave his married mistress, Nadya (Fiona Glascott), sparks shocking reverberations. Pragmatic scientist Von Koren (Tobias Menzies), outraged by Laevsky's thoughtlessness, challenges him to a duel, and the trio's emotional entanglements overwhelm them.
My Thoughts: "Laevsky is very self loathing and seems to be dealing, or I should say not dealing, with his personal demons and his many regrets. He has turned to gambling and alcohol to help him cope with Nadya, his mistress, a married woman. 'The Duel', is such a small part of the film that when it is brought to light is when you remember that is the title of the film. I think this is one of those films that is better on paper then on screen. It just didn't flow very well and some parts where never explained. I guess reading the book before watching the film would help better explain some of the scenes in the film. The movie was funny in some parts and wasn't completely a bore. I enjoyed the scenery in the film and great costumes. But the story just didn't do it for me."