Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler
Director: Martha Fiennes
Rated: M15+

ALEXANDER Pushkin’s 1831 poem, Eugene Onegin is a classic in Russian literature.

Onegin is a magnificent period film. It is mannered, slow and deliberate. The screenplay is faithful to the original epic poem of love and choice. Onegin (played by Ralph Fiennes), a young Russian aristocrat, retreats to his newly inherited estate. There, a neighbour, Tatyana (played by Liv Tyler) falls in love with him. He rejects her, treating her like all the women in his life – playthings and a rest for his ego.

To punish Tatyana he showers attention on her sister Olga and in doing so is challenged to a duel by Lensky, his friend and Olga’s fiance. Onegin kills Lensky and he leaves Russia for six years. On his return he discovers Tatyana is now the Princess Gremin, through her marriage to his cousin. He falls in love with her and asks her to choose between a marriage of social convenience and himself.

Nearly all Ralph Fiennes’ family is involved in this film. Martha Fienne’s direction shows how powerful Tatyana is by the end of the story. Ralph Fiennes, who raised the money to make this film, is a master of the romantic lead with The English Patient, The End of the Affair and now Onegin to his credit. His performance in this film is flawlessly egotistical. Magnus Fiennes wrote the musical score and Maya Fiennes plays the piano.

As good as it is, the calculating power of Ralph Fiennes’ character, the sparseness of the cinematic style and the snow-drenched coldness of the St Petersburg locations leave the audience unmoved by the film’s climax.

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