The Luzhin Defence (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Luzhin Defence (2001)



Critic Consensus: Tuturro and Watson play well off each other in this intriguing and well-crafted film.

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Movie Info

A lush historical drama from Dutch director Marlene Gorris, The Luzhin Defense is set in Como, a gorgeous northern Italian lakeside town located at the foot of the Alps. The year is 1929, and Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro) is a talented Russian chess player travelling to Como by train for the World Chess Championship. Also on his train is Natalia (Emily Watson), who is journeying to Como to meet her mother Vera (Geraldine James) at their posh lakeside hotel. Vera wants Natalia to settle down with the right -- meaning rich -- man, and duly tries to set her up with Jean (Christopher Thompson), a French count. However, Natalia instead sets her sights on Luzhin, who returns her affections, and the two embark on an unusual and unpredictable love affair. Adapted from one of Vladimir Nabokov's lesser-known novels, The Luzhin Defense also features the talents of Mark Tandy and Kelly Hunter as Luzhin's parents -- seen in flashback -- and Orla Brady as his young aunt. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi


John Turturro
as Alexander Luzhin
Emily Watson
as Natalia
Stuart Wilson
as Valentinov
Christopher Thompson
as Jean De Stassard
Mark Tandy
as Luzhin's Father
Kelly Hunter
as Luzhin's Mother
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Luzhin Defence

All Critics (71) | Top Critics (23)

Makes up for a creaky structure with the intensity of emotion and psychological nuance provided by two of our finest screen actors.

June 14, 2001
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

It plays a predictable, if pretty, game.

May 21, 2001
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

As brave as it is affecting.

May 21, 2001
Detroit News
Top Critic

When Luzhin's old chess teacher shows up, the movie becomes a slow-motion wreck.

May 18, 2001
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic

If The Luzhin Defence falls short of being totally absorbing and compelling, it's surely because it's so difficult to translate Nabokov's view that we are all pawns in the big game.

May 17, 2001
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Trapped between being an offbeat, slightly daffy period romance and a dark study of a tragic genius, The Luzhin Defence struggles to a draw.

Full Review… | May 11, 2001
Denver Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Luzhin Defence

well crafted historical/period drama that proves bobby fisher wasn't the first chess champ that was wack a doodle.

Greg Wood
Greg Wood

THE LUZHIN DEFENCE A very good movie. An interesting story, funny and sweet in places, albeit disturbing in many aspects as well. It is based upon a novel by Vladimir Nabokov and concerns underlying themes of love and family, dysfunctional personalities and relationships, and vulnerable people. John Turturro gives an awesome performance as the deeply troubled genius and chess master Alexander Luzhin. Emily Watson was wonderful as the open-hearted young woman Natalia, somewhat overwhelmed as she finds herself the object of his sudden marital intentions. The entire film was shot on location. The story is set in Europe between the great wars and depicts period dress, manners and mores of the upper middle class bourgeoisie typical of that time. The action takes place at a high-brow Italian lakeside resort community where the unlikely couple first lay eyes on one another—is it love at first sight or something else entirely? The vacation resort is hosting a national chess tournament in which Alexander will be competing in a grueling challenge against a vanguard of eminent gaming professionals for top honors. In flashback we come to see and understand through his haunting memories the sources of Alexander’s past and present torments as he tries to remain focused and work out his winning strategies. As days go by and the chess match proceeds, the pressure mounts and questions abound. Will Alexander be able to withstand the enormous personal stress he is laboring under, not to mention certain devilish attempts to sabotage his play, and carry off a victory in the competition? Will Natalia’s ever-growing love will be strong enough to continue to nurture their budding relationship and ultimately save her precious Sasha’s (pet name) life? A great story. Solid entertainment. A rating of PG-13 seems about right for this film.

Ann Lorraine
Ann Lorraine

Very interestiong story. There's something I find enchating about Emily Watson, but have no clue what that is.

aria chavez
aria chavez

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