Last weekend, we went to the Drexel, a little art house theater in Bexley, and saw a matinee showing of The Last Station. I have not read Jay Prini's semi-factual novel about the last year in the life of the great 19th century Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, from which this film was adapted. But, I was completely mesmerized by Leah Bendavid-Val's Song Without Words, The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy, and actually own a copy.
Leo Tolstoy is quite the giant in the literary world, but I must admit, I am more fascinated with his wife, the Countess Sophia Tolstoy, and was very much looking forward to seeing Helen Mirren in the role. The Countess was a deeply religious and traditional wife, but she was also daringly rebellious and remarkably modern. Mirren was perfectly cast as the feisty Sophia, not only because she is a powerful actor, but because she herself was born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov, her father being of Russian descent. I was, however, a bit disappointed that the Countess, as an artist, was not brought out in the film, since she was a fabulous photograher in her own right, at a time when the art was relatively new.
Christopher Plummer is terrific in the role of Tolstoy. The cast also includes Paul Giamatti as Vladimir Chertkov, Tolstoy's aide and James McAvoy as his new young secretary. Each actor looks amazingly like the actual people they portray. The film focuses on the last few turbulent months of Tolstoy's life, and the struggle between he and the countess over changing his will, to prevent her from receiving the royalties from his books. Although this movie lacks the emotional punch I was hoping for, it is still beautifully put together, along with stellar performances by all. You know how nutty I am for all things Russian. I absolutely devoured every lovely detailed scene.
|Sofia Tolstoy, self portrait with Anna Maslova, July 13, 1898|