(4 / 5)
Anton Chekhov’s famous play, “The Seagull” is given an airing by a stellar cast, in a straightforward and faithful adaptation by director Michael Mayer.
Chekhov set out to write a comedy, and much of the framework of the story bears witness to this. Many of the principal characters are victims of unrequited love. Konstantin loves Nina who loves Trigorin, who kind of loves Irina who certainly loves him back. Masha loves Konstantin but Medvedenko loves her. You get the picture? Maybe not!
Any film adaptation of a great play, is, to some degree, on a bit of a loser, because the unique intimacy of the stage and its relationship with the audience, is key in such a tight play as this.
Having said that, if you take the film on its own values, then Michael Mayer has done an accomplished job.
The strength of the movie lies in its actors.
Annette Benning as Irina, an actress on the decline – both guilty of love and tenderness, but, chronically self-absorbed, is perfectly cast. Having just started her seventh decade, she still has the sexiness to be believable as a fading actress, who can still reel in a younger man, and a famous writer at that.
Saoirse Ronan, the talented Irish-American actress, whose name always causes me difficulty to pronounce, has the right balance of sensitivity and determination to make Nina a sympathetic heroine.
For me the pick of the female protagonists, (in a competitive field) is Elizabeth Moss as the increasingly dissolute Masha, who realises that she is alive but only physically. You wish that she had more scenes because she manage to steal every one she is in.
Of the male actors, I liked Corey Stoll’s rather laid-back Boris Trigorin. I have seen stage actors overplay this character, to the extent that he becomes rather annoying. There is a bit of Chekhov in Trigorin, the acknowledged leading writer in Russia, and there is also part of him in Konstantin, ( Billy Howle)- the writer trying to find himself and make his name.
Good support is offered by stalwart Brian Dennehy as Sorin, Irina’s dying brother, and Jon Tenney as Doctor Dorn, who recognises talent in Konstantin’s writing.
Besides the acting, the lighting and cinematography are really good. It manages to retain the level of intimacy that I talked about at the start of this review.
The final meeting of Konstantin and Nina, is enhanced by the lighting, and renders it a profoundly moving scene, which is exactly what is required.
One small gripe is that I didn’t think it necessary to be quite as explicit at the end. The viewer is left in no doubt what has happened, but the offstage gunshot in the staged version, followed by Dorn and Trigorin leaving to sort out the mess works better.
“The Seagull” is a worthy adaptation of a theatre classic, that allows an audience who can’t get to see it on stage, an admirable substitute.
Genre: Drama, Adapted from a play
Running time: 99 minutes
The film was viewed at Chapter Screen 1.