Onegin


Directed by: Martha Fiennes
Written by:Peter Ettedgui, Michael Ignatieff
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler, Martin Donovan, Toby Stephens
Released: June 22, 2000
Grade: C

Period pieces are often the story of tragic romances and yes, Onegin is no exception.  We are introduced to Evgeny Onegin (Fiennes) as he discovers that his uncle has passed away and left him the country estate.  Evgeny, who enjoys the city life in St. Petersburg, travels to his new mansion to enjoy what the country has to offer him.

One afternoon whilst hunting in the woods, he befriends a man named Vladimir Lensky (Toby Stephens).  Through Vladimir his is introduced to the neighbours, the Larinas, who don’t take too warmly to his intentions to rent his mansion and farming grounds to slaves.  The Larinas have two daughters, one who is engaged to Vladimir and another, Tatyana who finds a closeness with Evgeny but Evgeny’s harsh outerself prevents her getting closer.  The movie then follows the torment that both suffer over their closeted romance.

Slow and deliberate are appropriate words to describe this tale.  Based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin, this is the third attempt to bring his story to the big screen.  Director, Martha Fiennes (sister of Ralph) creates a very quiet work with soft background music and few words creating an eerily silent movie theatre.

Fiennes and Tyler appear comatose in their roles and whilst this was clearly the filmmaker’s intention it makes Onegin a tiring experience.  The costumes, the sets, the cinematography are all beautiful but it’s little solace to the repetitious screenplay.  Surely more happened in these times than soured romances?  This film would have received more appreciation with a little more colour, a speedier pace and a lot more substance.