In this drama based on the works of legendary Russian author Anton Chekhov, a village teacher undergoes an emotional crisis that also torments his young wife. Meanwhile, a local doctor hates his work and takes out his frustration on his patients.
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Flashy and crude at times, this paean to the ruin of idealism and to dumb devotion, with its unpredictable and strange, sometimes gaudy but always inventive, camerawork and its geometric economy of people spying on each other (indeed characters assume (performative) identity only under the gaze of another) has a canny power that is hard to gainsay.
The theme of rotteness and fall of the russian bourgeoisie and the potray of communism being still a child is delivered in your face, very explicit and somehow childish. First half of the movie is hard to digest, the second is full of over the top personal testimonies that tell you the same points for the fifth time. What a shame. But still - two brillians scenes; the last one and the mad, surreal protagonist
With découpage of rare craftmanship, Mikhalkov turns spatial coordinates and domestic corners into a psychological microscope of Russian nihilism's grip over an entire era. Opting for color cinematography from sepia to sporadic 'elations' of bleu electrique or mauve, Mikhalkov's theatricality is fused with naturalism to which the mechanical piano juxtaposes the artificial connotations of history's unfinished ruse.