Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Onegin (1999)

Onegin is an enigmatic adaptation of Pushkin's novel that strips the story to its bare bones, removing the poetry and author's narrative presence, to focus solely on the ennui and detachment of the titular Russian aristocrat that ultimately and satisfactorily pervades the entire film.

Martha Fiennes debut sees her cast her brother in the lead role (she also assigns the score to her other sibling, Magnus) It's an astute move, as he can play this kind of wounded, bitter and cruel mouthed malcontent in his sleep. Liv Tyler was perhaps a surprising choice to play the object of his affection and obsession, the quiet country girl turned noblesse, Tatyana, yet it's a performance of slow burning and hidden depths delight. Here is a character who the phrase 'still waters runs deep' is very much apt, and Tyler's doe eyed, silently lovestruck, almost ethereal quality is strangely captivating before turning, almost imperceptibly, to a seeming aloofness that will ultimately make Onegin rue his past.  

I've seen criticisms for Tyler and the supposed lack of believable chemistry between her and Fiennes but I think such comments are unfair. There is something slowly beguiling about Tyler's Tatyana's grave and unflinching, wide eyed presence that captivates Onegin (and perhaps the viewer) almost too late. The chemistry question should not really be moot, theirs is a love story that is not told in unison. 

Onegin is very much a debut feature; Martha Fiennes shows a great grasp for period drama but its mannered sophistication keeps its heart buttoned up, leaving the drama somewhat muffled. It's perhaps in keeping with the listless air of Onegin but admittedly, on some occasions, it threatens to deaden the audience's interest in the film.

The morale of the story; stop being a twat when a hottie like Tyler confesses her love to you, as you won't get a second chance.

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