Friday, February 5, 2010
The Last Station
To many, the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (Лев Толсто́й) is just as celebrated as Shakespeare. But his ideology, which is the foundation of Tolstoyan, might not be as well-known as his grand novel "War and Peace". "The Last Station" (Germany/Russia/UK 2009 | 112 min.) gives a dramatic account about the fight over the copyright inheritance between Tolstoy's wife Sophia and Tolstoy's trusted secretary Vladimir Chertkov, the most prominent Tolstoyans, during the last days of Tolstoy's life.
Toward to the end of his life, Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) becomes increasingly passionate about the Tolstoyan movement. Encouraged by his devoted Tolstoyan friend and secretary Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), he plans to leave his work's copyright and his estate to Russian people. That draws furious objection from his wife of 48 years Sophia (Helen Mirren) and she puts up a bitter fight with Chertkov. An innocent idealist Valentin (James McAvoy) is hired by Chertkov to be an assistant to Tolstoy. Valentin not only witnesses the turmoil up and close, but he also finds his love and discovers himself.
Despite the larger than life stature of Tolstoy, the true protagonist of the film is Valentin. Vallentin's story is more captivating and his self-discovery journey is more fascinating. On the contrary, the endless quarrel and shouting between aging Tolstoy and sharp-tongued Sophia become weary quickly.
As a result, Tolstoy knows how to speak English, with a British accent, before Shakespear learns how to speak Russian, also with a British accent. In the film, it looks odd when these characters are surrounded nothing but Russian, but they do not speak one single Russian word even they read and write in Russian. It compromises the credibility of these characters and makes the film look like a PBS drama with a terrific ensemble performance.
Will Tolstoy continue to posses a British accent in his next film when he speaks, perhaps Na'vi?