Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Last Station

We went to see this move over the weekend, with friends, and all of us just loved it. It’s entertaining, informative, moving, and thought-provoking. In truth, I’m not sure which delighted me more, the film or my husband’s analysis of it; read on! The film is about the final days of Leo Tolstoy. It stars Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife, Countess Tolstoy. You may remember Helen Mirren from her role as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen.

We see the then most famous writer in all of Russia surrounded by adoring disciples who admit he isn’t Christ, but are sure he is at least a prophet, speaking for God. They have developed a whole ideology centering around Tolstoy. More accurately, they have projected their own ideals onto Tolstoy, who himself doesn’t quite buy them and whose life certainly does not exemplify them. The “Tolstoyans” are anti-church and supposedly promote love and freedom, although nobody in the movement seems able to love, and there isn’t any freedom, either. Their very ideology gets in the way of both; they sacrifice love and freedom and one another and descend to manipulation in their efforts to propagate their cause.

Tolstoy is struggling with his guilt over being upper-class (a count) and privileged and wealthy. We see him succumb to the flattery of his worshipful followers – to the point that he has agreed to bequeath the rights to all his writings to the Movement instead of to his family. He has driven his wife to desperation by being so taken in by all the hoopla surrounding himself. She in turn makes his life miserable with her rages and the public scenes she creates, the screaming, the tears, the pathetic pleading.



Mirren as Queen Elizabeth        
  
Demetrios’ opinion was that she was the only sane character in the movie; all the others had gone off into la-la-land, driven and blinded by their passions masquerading as ideology. The Countess, though, wasn’t fooled. And, Demetrios added, neither was Masha, the other female protagonist in the movie; at least, not for long.  The two women were the only ones not living a delusion.

“My dear,” he concluded, laughing, “the take-home lesson is this: we have a much better life than Tolstoy!”

I have to warn you there is the obligatory sex scene. It’s hot and heavy but mercifully brief. And it really is an integral part of the movie, part of the plot. But if you can live with that, go see this movie. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think, you'll be grateful. Oh, and the acting is superb all around.

11 comments:

DebD said...

Great review, thanks!

orrologion said...

I met Helen Mirren once, at a coffee shop on Sunset Blvd. She essentially castigated me for referring somewhat disparagingly to Liverpool to a friend that had no idea where my family had come from and its general reputation. She sid they were the salt of the earth.

Did they get to scene at the end of his life when he sent for St. Ambrose of Optina? St. Barsanuphius was sent instead as St. Ambrose was ill. According to the life of St. B, he was stopped from seeing Tolstoy by his daughter who was afraid her father would repent and reconcile with the Church and thus ruin the movement built around him. I have seen a different take on the events from others that stated that Tolstoy changed his mind or that the Church never sent anyone, but...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Ooh, I'd love to meet Dame Helen!

In The Last Station, an unnamed priest is on the scene at the very end, not sent for by Tolstoy, but brought along by his wife.

orrologion said...

Did they mention the fact that he died in the rail station on his way to Optina?

I shouldn't ask so many question since I'd very much like to see the film myself.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

:-)

That's why the movie is named The Last Station.

Although there was no mention (unless I missed it) that Optina was where he was headed.

Now go and see the movie!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I must go and see this one :-)

amy said...

Thank you for the review; sounds great!

GretchenJoanna said...

Thanks for the great review. I'll bet I can get my husband to take me to see this movie.

Michelle M. said...

That sounds like a movie right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!

Kacie said...

been excited about this one, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it!

GretchenJoanna said...

I asked my husband to take me to the movie, but I couldn't remember where I had read something that made me want to see it. Now I remember it was this post of yours.

I thought it was awfully interesting and yes, the Countess did seem like the one sensible person. It's good to read your review again after having seen it. Thanks!