Onegin

A more prudent director than Martha Fiennes (sister of Ralph) might have given serious thought to the fact that no-one has ever filmed Alexander Pushkin's 1833 verse novel (with the exception of a film of Tschaikovsky's opera), even though it's a milestone in the Russian literary canon. Its prickly hero is Evgeny Onegin (Ralph Fiennes, ill-served by a singularly...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A more prudent director than Martha Fiennes (sister of Ralph) might have given serious thought to the fact that no-one has ever filmed Alexander Pushkin's 1833 verse novel (with the exception of a film of Tschaikovsky's opera), even though it's a

milestone in the Russian literary canon. Its prickly hero is Evgeny Onegin (Ralph Fiennes, ill-served by a singularly unflattering, though no doubt historically accurate, hairdo), a dilettante who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing before Oscar Wilde ever defined "cynic." Called to the sickbed of a wealthy uncle, whose vast country estate lies far from the glittering lights of St. Petersberg and therefore holds little appeal for the young reprobate, Onegin delays going so long that when he arrives the old man has died. Better still, he's left Onegin his fortune. Too world-weary to decide his next move, Onegin hangs around the boondocks, befriending fellow squire Vladimir Lensky (Toby Stephens), who dabbles in poetry and is inspired by a local beauty named Olga (Lena Heady), and flirting lazily with Olga's sister Tatyana (Liv Tyler). This being a Russian tale, things inevitably take a terrible turn: Onegin crushes Tatyana by rejecting her feverish declaration of love, and later provokes Lensky into a duel. Beneath the period trappings lies a very contemporary story about self-destructiveness and misplaced values. Tyler, a very contemporary, gangly goose of a girl, is so unsuited to this material that she's painful to watch; but Ralph Fiennes is the master of romantic misery, even if it makes him look as though his shoes are too tight.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A more prudent director than Martha Fiennes (sister of Ralph) might have given serious thought to the fact that no-one has ever filmed Alexander Pushkin's 1833 verse novel (with the exception of a film of Tschaikovsky's opera), even though it's a mileston… (more)

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