“Onegin” (1999)

I bought this DVD because I heard Toby Stephens played a good role in it; I had never seen it before last week.  This film is very smart, subtle, touching, and thought-provoking.  It is based on the novel by Alexander Pushkin.  It was directed by Martha Fiennes (Ralph’s sister) and has some creative/unusual shots.  The cinematography is simple gorgeous, as are the locations, sets and costumes (which make the actors stand up straighter and creates elegant lines).

Eugene Onegin (Fiennes) is a wealthy playboy from St. Petersburg, Russia.  He is bored with his urban life: costly mistress, social obligations, and frivolous friends.  Onegin inherits a huge country estate after his elderly uncle dies, and he ventures out of the city to have a look at the place.

Onegin, the brooding/pessimistic aristocrat, makes friends with Lensky (Toby Stephens), an optimistic/energetic/naive country gent with dreams of becoming a poet.  Though the men are polar opposites, they are both well-educated and neighbors.  Lensky has long been in love with Olga (Lena Headey), a conventional girl who dreams of city life.  But Olga’s younger sister Tatyana (Liv Tyler) is the girl who intrigues Onegin.

It is soon obvious that the impressionable Tatyana has fallen in love with Onegin, or in love with who she thinks he is.  She borrows books from his library, and expresses modern opinions (much to the changrin of her widowed mother).  One night, Tatyana pores out her heart in a letter to Onegin, unable to keep her feelings boxed up (as social convention dictates).  How will the seemingly cool-headed Onegin react?  Can he return her feelings?  Watch to find out!

Ralph Fiennes, an internal actor, quickly disappears into his role of the dissatisfied Onegin.  Toby Stephens provides a refreshing counterbalance to Onegin.  Liv Tyler gives a terrific performance, proving that some actors don’t need to study for years to create fine characters.  They just have the “it” factor!

A clip from Onegin:


More about the movie:


About the book Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin:


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