Uncle Vanya (subtitles) (DVD-NTSC)
This film is a must see for any admirer of Chekhov, and is also a pivotal film in the history of modern Russian/Soviet cinema. Apart from that it should be required viewing for any one interested in the sincere portrayal of very difficult emotions in cinema. Although formalistically different, it ranks with the best work of Andrei Tarkovsky or Ingmar Bergman.

Andrei Konchalovsky sets a beautiful and nostalgic mood for this classic Russian text. An ode to the decadence and laziness of the dying Russian gentry, the film is appropriately staged in a large run-down house in the country. There is a palpable feeling of decay not only in the dialogue and the characters, but also in the peeling paint, the washed out colors that the camera picks up, the dim lighting, and the dirty clothes that the characters wear. The actors are quite loyal to the subtlety that Chekhov demands for his characters emotions. They avoid melodrama, but at the same time do not leave the audience feeling oblique and distanced as is often the case with adaptations of Chekhov.

A retired professor has returned to his estate to live with his beautiful young wife, Yelena. The estate originally belonged to his first wife, now deceased; her mother and brother still live there and manage the farm.

For many years the brother (Uncle Vanya) has sent the farm's proceeds to the professor, while receiving only a small salary himself. Sonya, the professor's daughter, who is about the same age as his new wife, also lives on the estate. The professor is pompous, vain, and irritable. He calls the doctor (Astrov) to treat his gout, only to send him away without seeing him. Astrov is an experienced physician who performs his job conscientiously, but has lost all idealism and spends much of his time drinking.

The presence of Yelena introduces a bit of sexual tension into the household. Astrov and Uncle Vanya both fall in love with Yelena; she spurns them both. Meanwhile, Sonya is in love with Astrov, who fails even to notice her. Finally, when the professor announces he wants to sell the estate, Vanya, whose admiration for the man died with his sister, tries to kill him.

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