The Seagull, Adapted From Chekhov

Filed in Film by on May 5, 2018 0 Comments

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play, The Seagull, has been brought to the screen by Michael Mayer. Thanks to his unerring eye for detail and a fine ensemble cast, he has resurrected this costume drama of unrequited love quite successfully. It opens in Canada on May 11.

Unfolding in a country estate near Moscow, The Seagull takes a viewer on an emotional roller coaster ride as passions and hopes flare, flicker and die out.

The characters, in the main, are strong and memorable.

Konstantin (Billy Howle) is a budding playwright who’s smitten by Nina (Saoirse Ronan), a farmer’s daughter who aspires to be a famous actress. Konstantin’s mother, Irina (Annette Bening), a vain, self-absorbed actress past her prime, lives in the moment. Her much younger boyfriend, Boris (Corey Stall), a renowned writer, grows infatuated with Nina. Masha (Elisabeth Moss), the estate manager’s daughter, pines for Konstantin and shows no interest in a school teacher (Micheal Zegen) who pursues her ardently. Nina’s ailing brother, Sorin (Brian Dennehy), a retired Russian government official, wallows in regrets.

Annette Bening and Brian Dennehy

The most compelling scenes involve Nina and Boris, whose mutual attraction verges on the electric. Nina, captivated by his celebrity, makes the first move. As they explore a lake in a rowboat, chatting animatedly, Irina catches sight of them from her window. Jealous, she plans to confront Boris.

Nina admires Boris’ “brilliant” and meaningful” life, yet she also thinks he’s jaded and pompous. Boris is bewitched by her youth and beauty. Later, back at the house, Boris tells Irina the painful truth: he’s bowled over and obsessed by Nina. “Let me go,” he says imploringly, appealing to Nina’s generosity. “I’ve never known a love like this.”

Saoirse Ronan

Using all her feminine charms, Irina alternatively threatens suicide and flatters Boris. He succumbs to her pleas, momentarily at least, and then tries to seduce Nina. As this romance burns brightly, Masha thinks constantly of Konstantin, who hankers after Nina and hates Boris.

Their collective emotional outbursts are theatrical at times, but these are expressive people who seek instant gratification and couldn’t be bothered by restraint or decorum.

The cast is stellar.

Bening, mischievous and calculating, is the epitome of a self-centered aging woman who cannot come to terms with the march of time. Ronan, her deep blue eyes sparkling in the sun, is a seductress par excellence who can’t see through Boris’ opportunism. Stall conveys the mannerisms of an egotist. Howle portrays an ambitious and fragile young man who can’t handle adversity. Moss plays a rejected woman who learns a lesson in pragmatism: marriage can be more important than love. Dennehy portrays a wizened old man who reflects on life with a deep sense of remorse.

The sets and costumes, evocative of late 19th century Russia, endow The Seagull with a special sense of time and place. All that’s missing is the mellifluous spoken Russian language, of which the redoubtable Chekhov was a master.





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