Monday, March 5, 2012

The White Dacha

First we get Last Station and now we have Chekhov and Maria, a film treatment of an earlier play by Jovanka Bach.  We all know that writers were not saints, but it seems that in recent biopics it has become all to tempting to identify with the thwarted woman, in this case Chekhov's sister.

The film, like the play, focuses on the waning days of Chekhov's life at his White Dacha in Yalta, where his sister and mother looked after him.   The seaside house served as a magnet for visiting writers, composers and other celebrities, including close friends Bunin and Gorky.  Chekhov had married the well known actress, Olga Knipper, but he was unable to spend much time in Moscow or on the road with her, given his tuberculosis.    Letters indicate this was a mutually agreed to situation.  However, Jovanka draws on Maria's letters as well, which paint a much less flattering portrait of events.  What follows is a story not much unlike that of Uncle Vanya, with Chekhov cast as a  combination of Vanya and the Doctor to Maria's forlorn Sonya.  

Chekhov was apparently not one to show much emotion, so the audience will have little problem identifying with Maria, much like Sophia Tolstaya in The Last Station.  It makes for compelling drama, although the performances are a bit stilted.  Ron Bottitta and Gillian Brashear reprise their roles in the film directed by Eric Till.

Here is a nice piece  by Rosamund Bartlett, Remembering Chekhov in Yalta.

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