Review: Anton Chekhov’s The Duel DVD

The Duel DVD boxSTUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Dover Koshashvili | CAST: Fiona Glascott, Andrew Scott, Tobias Menzies, Niall Buggy
5/24/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
SPECS: NR | 95 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Anton Chekhov's The Duel movie scene

Tobias Menzies takes aim in Anton Chekhov's The Duel.

Based on an 1891 novella, filmmaker Dover Koshashvili’s (Late Marriage) 2010 movie Anton Chekov’s The Duel is a comedy of decadent manners set in a late-empire Russian backwater, where the characters alternately cling together and claw at each other (while, of course, longing for the bright lights of Moscow. It is Chekhov, after all!).

In the film, Laevsky (Andrew Scott, TV’s John Adams), a man of no apparent occupation, has run off with Nadya (Fiona Glascott, The Deal), a married woman, to a run-down Black Sea resort. Having grown tired of his mistress, Laevsky dissipates by day, gambles by night and seems to be coming completely unstrung. Heavily in debt, he has earned the enmity of the entire community, especially the scientist Von Koren (Tobias Menzies, Forget Me Not), once a good friend. Hostilities fester until Laevsky and Von Koren’s eponymous duel, like an absurdist bloodletting, allows compassion and affection to thrive again.

In The Duel, Koshashvili captures Chekhov’s sense of the contradictory: See as a woman trades sexual favors for a new hat, and then blithely walks away as it falls to the floor.

Praise must also go to the exquisite cinematography of Paul Sarossy (Atom Egoyan’s regular director of photography), who masterfully catches the author’s mood painting, lingering on wafting curtains, an uncleared dinner table or the water lapping against the seawall.

The acting is uniformly excellent, especially Scott, who brings an impish charm to a role that could have become truly annoying.

And kudos to the careful attention paid to all the movie’s period details — the costumes, the furniture, the rugs, and even the shapely, unaugmented female breasts.


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.