Anton Chekhov's the Duel -- Film Review

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The great plays of Chekhov are endlessly revived, but there are precious few adaptations, either theatrical or cinematic, of his many and far less celebrated stories and novellas.

The rather ungainly titled "Anton Chekhov's the Duel" demonstrates that there's a wealth of material yet to be explored. The film is receiving its world theatrical premiere at New York's Film Forum.

Directed by Dover Kosashvili, the Israeli filmmaker who made an auspicious debut with the terrific "Late Marriage" (2001), the English-language film features a largely Irish cast. Shot in Croatia, it revolves around the emotionally charged interactions among a group of Russians in a seaside town in the Caucuses.

The hardly likable central character is Laevsky (Andrew Scott), a deeply neurotic and self-absorbed aristocrat who has fled to the remote location with his beautiful married mistress, Nadya (Fiona Glascott). The problem is that now that she is at his disposal, Laevsky has grown tired of her, as he bitterly complains to the town doctor (Niall Buggy).

Observing Laevsky's behavior with hostility is Von Koren (Tobias Menzies), a visiting zoologist who becomes increasingly involved in his machinations. Meanwhile, the neglected Nadya's increasingly flirty ways have attracted the attention of several romantic competitors, including the town's hard-edged police chief (Mislav Cavajda).

Screenwriter Mary Bing's skillful adaptation well-delineates the complex characterizations and situations without succumbing to excess talkiness. Director Koshashvili keeps the atmosphere at a simmering boil, with violence seemingly threatening to erupt long before the titular confrontation.

The performances are excellent all around, with Scott mesmerizing as the emotionally volatile Laevsky and the gorgeous Glascott making vividly clear why her character drives all the surrounding men to distraction.

Opened: Wednesday, April 28 (New York) (High Line Pictures)
Production: Flux Films, Mainframe Productions
Cast: Andrew Scott, Tobias Menzies, Fiona Glascott, Niall Buggy, Michelle Fairley, Jeremy Swift, Nicholas Rowe
Director: Dover Kosashvili
Screenwriter: Mary Bing
Producers: Donald Rosenfeld, Mary Bing
Director of photography: Paul Sarossy
Editor: Kate Williams
Production designer: Ivo Husnjak
Costume designer: Sergio Ballo
Music: Angelo Milli
No rating, 95 minutes
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