JDIFF: Review of 'Anton Chekhov's The Duel'

antonchekhovtheduel

(Pic: Fiona Glascott and Andrew Scott in Anton Chekhov’s The Duel)

DIR: Dover Koshashvili • PRO: Mary Bing and Donald Rosenfeld • WRI: Anton Chekhov(novel) and Mary Bing DOP: Paul Sarossy• ED: Kate Williams • Cast: Andrew Scott, Fiona Glascott, Tobias Menzies, Niall Buggy and Michelle Fairley

Cineworld, 1:00pm, Sunday, 27th February 2011

This adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Duel holds particular interest for Irish audiences as the two leads and two key supporting roles are played by Irish actors, namely Andrew Scott, Fiona Glascott, Niall Buggy and Michelle Fairley.

Laevsky (Andrew Scott) is a boozeing, gambling aristocrat trying to abandon his mistress Nadia (Glascott). Soon Laevsky’s debts start to catch up with him and some of Nadia’s suitors start to make life difficult for them both.

It is a beautiful film. The architecture, clear blue seas, forests, hills, and coastal villages of the Balkans are breathtaking. And, I don’t think this is a spoiler, the titular duel itself takes place in a stunningly beautiful cave behind a waterfall, which we learned at the Q&A was found by the location manager’s daughter.  This is as good a promotional video for Croatia as you are likely to see.

The print that was screened in Cineworld was quite grainy and worn which in some ways this added to 19th century feel, but also unfortunately there was  a technical issue with the projection for about 5 minutes which was distracting.

The performances were strong throughout, Andrew Scott is great as the boozy, slightly unhinged stressed-out Laevsky,  Glascott can say so much by saying so little  as the bored, frustrated Nadia. As pointed out in the Q&A the characters are well written and flawed, there are sinister, selfish motives in everyone which makes it all the more interesting.  I feel that Chekhov would have a tough job writing Mitch Buchanan if he were alive today.

All in all quite an enjoyable film and one whose reputation may spread through word of mouth which can only be good news for the Irish cast in it.

At the Q&A Irish stars Andrew Scott and Fiona Glascott said that the novel by Anton Chekhov constantly provided answers for them on the shoot and that The Duel was not as difficult to adapt for the screen as other works by Chekhov.  Scott pointed out that he and Glascott were friends beforehand which helped during the filming.

Scott said playing Laevsky was a challenge as he was not particularly likeable at the beginning and that in that case as an actor you have to be fearless.  The scene where Laevsky goes into hysterics is a particular favourite of his in the book as it is described beautifully. When shooting the scene the eccentric Russian director Dover Koshashvili, who added ‘passion’ and a ‘little bit of crazyness’ to the production, was in hysterics laughing himself at Scott’s performance.

Glascott spoke about Chekhov’s creation of flawed human characters, her’s was a bored, frustrated, neglected woman who behaved disgracefully and that all the characters in The Duel are both likeable and unlikeable. She had done a little Chekhov in drama school, played Nina in The Seagull but would like to do more Chekhov on stage.

The casting of the four Irish actors was a happy coincidence, casting took place in London and Koshashvili probably wouldn’t have been aware that he had cast four Irish actors initially.  Both Scott and Glascott suggested that perhaps it was because the Russian and Irish psyches are similar.

Gordon Gaffney

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