Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As an adaptation of Pushkin's narrative poem, Michael Ignatieff and Peter Ettedgui have delivered a modern screenplay that rips through convention to the pulsing heart of a country girl's passion for a sophisticated urban aristocrat.

Yevgeny Onegin (Ralph Fiennes) inherits the estate of his uncle and braves the boredom of provincial life for an exploratory visit. He comes from St Petersburg's glittering high society, which he endures rather than enjoys, prefering the company of books to that of frivolous women, appreciating a witty jibe rather than flattery.

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Tatyana (Liv Tyler) is the younger daughter of a neighbour, who becomes infatuated by Onegin. Trapped by the tedium of trees and teas, she sees him as a renegade in knight's armour who will release her from her shackles, despite his apparent disdain for her.

Visually stunning, the film recreates rural upper-class Russian life as if no one had ever heard of Chekov. This balances preconceptions of costume drama and gives it a unique look. Ralph Fiennes tempers inbred arrogance with such subtlety and understanding that Onegin retains a certain sympathy, even when barbed with cynicism. His performance carries a considerable weight, superbly realised when the once proud social athlete slips into a slough of self-pity.

Liv Tyler is of an age where she can still convey the pain of innocence undone while surrendering to longing. She personifies the spirit of unrequited love, escaping in dreams from a lonely and mundane existence. Martha Fiennes, in her debut as director, shows a sensitivity that is both vibrant and lovely. Only at the very end does she lose her way.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Lavish version of Pushkin's poem about a jaded St Petersburg aristocrat.
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Nicholas Dawson ***1/2

Director: Martha Fiennes

Writer: Michael Ignatieff, Peter Ettedgui, based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin.

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Toby Stephens, Liv Tyler, Lena Headey, Martin Donovan, Alun Armstrong, Harriet Walter, Irene Worth, Jason Watkins, Francesca Annis, Simon McBurney

Year: 1999

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US/UK


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