Anton Chekhov is one of the greatest writers to engage readers in intellectual debate and personal contemplation. Through his many acclaimed and cherished works he has found a dedicated fan-base that will always be able to recognize his powerful words and the deep meanings that can be found behind them. Anton Chekhov's The Duel is a film adaptation of one of the writer's novellas and one which capably captures a sense of Chekhov's unique style.
The story is rather complicated to dissect as there are many layers and yet the central idea of the story is that two men will face one another due to the conflicting attitudes and nature behind their actions. Laevsky (Andrew Scott) is considered by most to be a dishonorable man who cares little for others and expects the upmost attention and satisfaction to be brought to him by those in his life. Von Koren is seen by many to be the opposite, as he is always found in high class company and seems well respected and honorably acknowledged. Von Koren can't stand Laevsky and wants him to pay for his behavior and wrongful actions. Laevsky is eventually challenged to a duel (as the title of the film suggests) and both men will eventually face each other and find challenging questions along the path.
The acting in the film was one of the elements that helped create some of the most enjoyable and impressive moments throughout this adaptation. There are some impressive performers who bring the story to full fruition. Andrew Scott was particularly impressive as Laevsky, our troubled and seriously flawed protagonist. Fiona Glascott also managed to be an equally interesting performer in playing opposite Scott with her performance of Nadia, a married woman (to another man), seemingly depressed but coldly distant from those around her, and whom Laevsky seems to lust for at times but never truly seems to care about emotionally. Both actors excel at bringing these complicated characters to cinematic life.
The film was beautifully constructed on many technical levels. The rather unique and beautiful cinematography by Paul Sarossy managed to lend an earthy and sensual style to the production. The music by composer Angelo Milli felt well suited to the director's style and helped provide tension that created genuine suspense when combined with the generally intense performances from the actors. Perhaps most noteworthy was the production design by Ivo Husnjak, which was remarkable and lent the film a sense of realism that made every individual artistic element contributing to this film seem more authentic and engaging.
If there is one big complaint it is that some scenes play the humorous elements a bit too far -- if only ever so slightly. Many Chekhov fans won't find a problem with the humor and its placement because the author always had flair for this style in his work. Occasionally there is some sense of pushing things too far though and for some viewers it might be seen as slight mishandling of the material. The truth might be that the humorous moments fall somewhere in the middle. There are some slight bumps along the way to the expertly handled conclusion.
Director Dover Kosashvili and screenwriter Mary Bing seem to understand much of the appeal of Chekhov and have carefully crafted the film to appeal specifically to that audience. There is even thematic relevance layered within this story and the film captures it with a definite sense of magnificence the filmmakers bring to the table. That is one sign this is an excellent attempt (one which genuinely succeeded) at adapting the work of Chekhov.
Anton Chekhov's The Duel arrives on Blu-ray in a frequently breathtaking High Definition image which is presented with a 1:78:1 ratio that comes close to preserving the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1:85:1. The colors are saturated beautifully and the clarity of the transfer provides an absorbing experience that seems faithful and appropriate. The richly detailed scenery is also amazing to behold. There is also a nice grain structure to the film which is never overbearing and which adds a stylistic sensibility that seems visually suited for this kind of production.
The film is presented with a worthwhile 5.1 Surround Sound DTS-HD Master Audio track in the original English language. The track is generally used to reproduce the dialogue and in that regard it succeeds. The film does feature some moments of increased surround activity which provides certain scenes with powerful bass and that employs the surround speakers to great effect. No subtitle options are included.
There are no extras included on this release. It would have been nice to see some kind of comparison between the original literary work and the film for viewers who desired more information about the process of adapting the material.
Anton Chekhov's The Duel is an exciting and dramatic adaptation of the original work. Performances are superior and strong technical elements behind the production lend it elegance that rivals bigger budget films. The story is thematically rich and rewarding. The occasionally mishandled humor is the only dramatically disappointing aspect. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Chekhov should consider watching this film. Recommended.