The Countess Sofya, wife and muse to Leo Tolstoy, uses every trick of seduction on her husbands loyal disciple, whom she believes was the person responsible for Tolstoy signing a new will that leaves his work and property to the Russian people.
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This film is beautifully photographed; is attentive to period details in terms of settings and costumes, and has moments of well crafted acting. I'm thinking of a scene between Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in the Tolstoy bedroom (it's pictured on the movie case). The two actors, and the situation they are creating, suddenly seem 'real' - an elderly husband and wife, married for almost fifty years, who know each other inside and out; both "in love" and in something less than love. In other words, that scene rang true.I wasn't aware that THE LAST STATION had been a 1990 novel until I saw this in the closing credits. Yet thinking it over, the film has a "novelettish" quality - a culled-from-fiction mood; the dialogue and the circumstances it's dramatizing (sometimes over-dramatizing) do make it seem to be, for the most part, a piece of affectionate historical fiction, even though it's generally based on real life people and events. This isn't a knock against dramatized fiction - but this film doesn't establish the consistent emotional depth that make a viewer forget it's a fiction; that makes it a "reality". It has this depth in odd moments - like the bedroom scene I've referred to, or when Tolstoy talks with his secretary - but it's an uneven creation.I thought the actress who played Tolstoy's daughter, Sasha, was badly miscast and/or just badly written. Instead of the real-life resentment and dislike that mother and daughter felt for each other, and the hefty looks and solid demeanor of the real Alexandra Tolstoy - a woman so devoted to her father that she married one of his disciples without love - we are given a thinly drawn, repressed and very English spinster "type", who cries "Pa-pa! Pa-pa!" like a parrot. The same for the actress who plays Masha, who to me remains a resolutely fictional character, created for sex interest.The film wanted to be meaningful and important - but can't seem to find its way. I was neither intrigued, enthralled, or taken into its world (the way I'd hoped to be, given its superlative reviews). Instead, I felt restless. I enjoyed Christopher Plummer's performance, and most of Helen Mirren's, and Paul Giametti does a nice job. James McAvoy seems a bit lost to me, or at least his character did - he portrays a sweetly confused boy-man very well; maybe that's a good performance. But I didn't believe in his love for the resolutely fictional Masha, and their reconciliation scene at the railroad station takes away from the real drama: the heartbreak of Sonya at Tolstoy's deathbed.All in all - an odd conglomeration of fact and fiction given voice by some talented actors. Worth watching once but hardly memorable.
"Your works are the birthright of the Russian people." VladimirChertkov (Paul Giamatti) in The Last StationLike Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Leo Tolstoy drifted at the end of his lifeinto spiritualism but of a more naturalistic kind, which disavowedmaterialism, espoused celibacy, and talked about the simple power oflove. Michael Hoffman's The Last Station chronicles in historical dramafashion Tolstoy's (Christopher Plummer) struggle with his wife,Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren), over his desire to bequeath his works tothe Russian people and thus, as she thought, deny her and her familyrightful inheritance.The film has an operatic tone due in large part to Mirren's occasionalhistrionics as she argues with Tolstoy and faces off Chertkov,Tolstoy's close friend and a force for the Tolstoyan movement, whichespoused the writer's philosophy of austere life, feeling at times likea stripped down transcendentalism popular in 19th century America. Thefirst half of the film has some electric moments because of Sofya'sdramatics and her attempt to win over Tolstoy's new personal secretary,Valentin Bolgokov (James McAvoy). When the film turns to the businessof Tolstoy dying, matters become slowly boring with overwroughtlamentation and a slow up of the frenetic family dissonance of thefirst part.The Last Station is a study in life's ironies: Tolstoy has been farfrom a celibate in life and therefore not a good Tolstoyan. Bolgokov isannoyingly enthusiastic about his new position and the tenets of themovement, except when he makes love to his new girlfriend, Masha (KerryCondon) and even then he is such a prig as to be even more annoyingthan the histrionic Sofya. Recently innocent Richard narrated the storyin Me and Orson Welles, and famously, Nick in The Great Gatsby. Allthree share in varying degrees intimacy with a famous person, withBolgokov the least impressive.Tolstoy does eventually die, Sofya gets the copyright, and I got anhour of splendid family invective along with my thoughts about thegreat writer of War and Peace and Anna Karenina reduced to annoyingbickering about inheritance. Yet I enjoyed those thoughts about asublime writer as a flawed human being whose final philosophy was aboutlove and peace. Love he had in abundance; peace did not arrive.
The Last Station, directed by Michael Hoffman, is set in Russia andrecounts us the last days of the famous writer Leo Tolstoy. I can't saythat there is only one main character in this film. Leo Tolstoy, hiswife Sofia Andreyevna, Vlantimir Chertkov and Valentin Bulgakov allplay significant roles in this interesting story where we can learn howsignificant was the Russian writer and thinker Leo Tolstoy. The film centres on his relations with his wife. Tolstoy had manydisputes with his wife because of his new way of life. Moreover, hisgoal was to change the world by a strange revolution centred on loveand pacifism. However many of his acolytes they just wanted to exploithis fame in order to make their own aspirations and ambitions cometrue. The Last Station covers many of the problems that Leo Tolstoy had inthe last days of his life and it makes us understand that Tolstoyanmovement was so pure as it seemed. In addition to this the story isvery interesting and the scenario is well-written. Of course there someflaws in them movie and sometimes it seems really predictable. Butoverall the film is touching and you must watch especially if you arefan of the writer Leo Tolstoy.
'The Last Station' focuses on the last year in the life ofÂ LeoTolstoy, the great Russian novelist.Â Toward the end of his life,Tolstoy began promulgating a secular religious philosophy based on theChristian teachings of 'turning the other cheek' and helping one'sfellow man.Â He advocated pacifism and urged members of the upper classto attend to the needs of the indigent.Â A cult-like group ofanarchists, The Tolstoyans, headed by Vladimir Chertkov, insinuatedthemselves into Tolstoy's life and set up a commune of followers nearTolstoy's country estate. Â The plot of 'The Last Station' is relatively simple.Â Chertkov hires ayoung pacifist, Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) to work as Tolstoy'ssecretary but in reality act as his spy.Â Valentin is instructed towrite down everything the master says and relay all garneredinformation back to Chertkov.Â The Tolstoyans have high and mightyideals about spreading Tolstoy's message but the leadership are a bunchof prigs, insisting that all members of the commune lead ascetic livesas celibates.Â At first Valentin wears his virginity as a badge ofhonor but soon falls for the free spirited Masha (Kerry Condon), whoseduces him. Masha soon grows disillusioned with the 'movement' as shecannot abide by their rigid rules.Tolstoy appears to be much more open-minded than his followers andlaughs at Valentin when he admits that he's a virgin. Nonetheless, it'snever really explained in much detail why Tolstoy is attracted to his'Tolstoyans'. There's some talk about Tolstoy being impressed byChertkov's ability to get his message out to as many people aspossible. By the same token, Tolstoy cannot be unaware that hisfollowers deep down are a bunch of reactionaries.It's his long-suffering wife, Sofya, who sees through Chertkov and hisminions and clashes with her husband about her suspicions that he mightbe changing his will in favor of his obsessed followers. Her fears arerealized when Tolstoy agrees to sign away all his copyrights so thatthe Russian people can read his books for free. This outrages Sofya,since she was counting on having the family receive the inheritance.Three quarters of 'The Last Station' is played primarily as a farce.Helen Mirren intentionally serves up an over-the-top performance asSofya, the overemotional countess, who would probably be diagnosedtoday as bi-polar. While Sofya correctly sees through Chertkov'smachinations, her emotional outbursts end up alienating her husband,who finally has had enough and decides to leave his estate.The last quarter of the film (the more serious part) chroniclesTolstoy's last days as he ends up the subject of intense mediascrutiny. Buoyed by his followers along with his devoted daughter,Tolstoy is given lodging by a kindly stationmaster after disembarkingfrom a train in southern Russia. Meanwhile, Sofya tries to commitsuicide by jumping in a pond back at the Tolstoy estate. The suicideattempt fails and she soon learns of Tolstoy's aborted trip and thathe's now dying. She races to see her stricken husband but Chertkov andher daughter prevent her from seeing him on his death bed. Finally, ashe draws his last breaths, the daughter allows her mother to pay herlast respects. 'The Last Station' is most successful in the scenes where Helen Mirrenis battling the Tolstoyans. Two scenes come to mind right away: whereSofya falls through the window and rages against Chertkov as they plotto divert the family inheritance; and when Sofya fires a gun multipletimes at Chertkov's picture. There's also quite a bit of nice interplaybetween Plummer and Mirren, as the Tolstoy's love/hate relationship isdissected in high relief. Paul Giamatti is one of the best American character actors out theretoday and does a fine job of playing up the comical aspects of thepetty tyrant, Chertkov. But Chertkov remains unexplainedÂdoes he haveany redeeming characteristics or is he a pure villain? (when Giamattikeeps twirling his moustache, we're inclined to believe that he isindeed the principal villain of the piece). James McAvoy doesn't havemuch to work with in the part of Valentin who's depicted as a NervousNellie who eventually (and rather predictably) joins up with Masha andleaves the Tolstoyan cult for good. One thing is for sure: ChristopherPlummer can do no wrong as Tolstoy (when is Plummer ever bad in apart?) 'The Last Station' is well written but by no means should it beconsidered 'high-brow'. The idea that the well-intentioned ideas of acreative man such as Tolstoy could be so easily corrupted by a group ofcult-like, anarchistic followers, is never explored seriously. Instead,the film's scenarists are bemused by both Tolstoy's followers andfamily members and view their machinations more as farce than seriousdrama. Only in the last scene, where Sofya expresses her undying lovefor her husband who has just expired, does 'The Last Station' rise tothe heights of deep emotion.'The Last Station' will certainly keep your interest from beginning toend. And please pay attention to the closing credits, where the actualmotion pictures of Tolstoy walking around on his country estate, areshown.
This film is beautifully photographed, and has some nice moments. I'm thinking of a scene between Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in the Tolstoy bedroom (it's pictured on the movie case). The two actors, and the situation they are creating, suddenly seem 'real' - an elderly husband and wife, married for almost fifty years, who know each other inside and out. In other words, the scene rang true.I wasn't aware that THE LAST STATION had been a 1990 novel until I saw this in the closing credits. Yet thinking it over, the film has a "novelettish" quality - a culled-from-fiction mood; the dialogue and the circumstances it's dramatizing (sometimes over-dramatizing) do make it seem to be, for the most part, a piece of affectionate historical fiction, even though it's generally based on real life people and events. This isn't a knock against dramatized fiction - but this film doesn't establish the consistent emotional depth that make a viewer forget it's a fiction; that makes it a "reality". It has this depth in odd moments - like the bedroom scene I've referred to, or when Tolstoy talks with his secretary - but it's an uneven creation.I thought the actress who played Tolstoy's daughter, Sasha, was badly miscast and/or just badly written. Instead of the real-life resentment and dislike that mother and daughter felt for each other, and the hefty looks and solid demeanor of the real Alexandra Tolstoy - a woman so devoted to her father that she married one of his disciples without love - we are given a thinly drawn, repressed and very English spinster "type", who cries "Pa-pa! Pa-pa!" like a parrot. The same for the actress who plays Masha, who to me remains a resolutely fictional character, created for sex interest.The film wanted to be meaningful and important - but can't seem to find its way. I was neither intrigued, enthralled, or taken into its world (the way I'd hoped to be, given its superlative reviews). Instead, I felt restless. I enjoyed Christopher Plummer's performance, and most of Helen Mirren's, and Paul Giametti does a nice job. James McAvoy seems a bit lost to me, or at least his character did - he portrays a sweetly confused boy-man very well; maybe that's a good performance. But I didn't believe in his love for the resolutely fictional Masha, and their reconciliation scene takes away from the 'real' drama: the heartbreak of Sonya at Tolstoy's deathbed.All in all - an odd conglomeration of fact and fiction given voice by some talented actors. Worth watching once but hardly memorable.
"All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love." This quote begins the movie. Most simply, the movie is about love.Tolstoy had many other beliefs and politics in his life but this movieonly brushes upon them. "The Last Station" explores the meaning of lovefor many of it's characters: Sofya for her love for Lev. Chertkov forhis love for the movement. Bulgakov for his confusion on where his loveshould be after entering into Tolstoy's home and commune. Masha forwhat seems to be the movement but becomes love for Bulgakov by the endof the film. Lev for his love of his teachings and ideals.Love is forgiving and all encompassing. When love is felt for anotherhuman being in this film, it is vividly shown and understood. In mymind, Sofya's cry begging Lev for forgiveness at the end of the movieis what this "love" is about. What the film fails to show is Lev'sreciprocation, or need for forgiveness at the end of his life (whichhistorically Lev did want but was not allowed to get).Lev's love for mankind, for unity, for equality - was that out of lovefor others? Or, were his social beliefs fighting against the guidelinesof religion and government because these were guidelines he did notwish to take upon himself? The obvious effect that Lev's non-Tolstoyanpersonality has on Bulgakov is clearly shown in the "The Last Station".An interesting movie for sure, well acted, a good script and beautifulsurroundings. The film dances around religion: Sofya praying after Levleaves, a Priest on the train, people singing a prayer after Lev'sdeath (still sung in churches now), the icons in Lev's room on hisdeathbed. The Christian Orthodox undertone in the movie is mostlyunspoken, but it is there: the love for one another is one ofunsurmountable importance.
Leo Tolstoy in his later years in life was a minimalist, or at least that is what he preached. Celibacy and pacifism were his creed, although he did not practice celibacy. Count Tolstoy was a great man and yet, he was the greatest of writers. Who of us has not read 'Anna Karenina' and 'War and Peace' and not thought so.In this film we meet his wife, Sofya, played by Helen Mirren, who is divine in whatever part she plays. She is forceful in her love for the Count. Christopher Plummer, as Tolstoy is a man of wonder and greatness, and we are in awe of him. They have been married for 48 years, and Sofya produced 13 children. Their marriage has been tempestuous and boisterous, yet, their love for one another is palpable. The chief protagonist is Chertov played by Paul Giamatti. He is a devout Tolstoyan and believes that Tolstoy's literary foundation should be left to the people. Sofya, of course, thinks of the family and their needs. Thus the true nature of the film's action. Enter Valentin, James McEvoy, who will be the secretary and bear witness via a diary of all of the events that take place. He finds himself in an unenviable position, between the Count and Countess and their needs and wishes. All Hell breaks lose, and Tolstoy makes a decision that will become irrevocable. Yet, the love of the Count and Countess is so true that no one can take this asunder.This is a lovely film, but something is missing. There is the larger story of fits and tempers and broken dinnerware, but the sum of all parts is not there. The acting is superb, if not overdone at times, but still I felt as if something more needed to occur. The greatness of the man is taken for granted, but maybe we needed more of this greatness, to see for ourselves. Recommended. prisrob 06-27-10Helen Mirren at the BBC (The Changeling / The Apple Cart / Caesar and Claretta / The Philanthropist / The Little Minister / The Country Wife / Blue Remembered Hills / Mrs. Reinhardt / Soft Targets)Murder by Decree
Helen Mirren "was" the movie. Her acting was superb. This movie will give you something to think about. There are many opportunities to decide on the moral decisions made by each of the characters depicted in this story. What would you do if you were in their shoes? Each thought they had a moral responsibility; some to a higher power and others to the humanity around them. The story is heart-wrenching with intense inward conflicts.
This is an outstanding film in every respect. The cast is perfect andevery message the film wants to convey is achieved. This film is not ahistorical drama with heavy referencing to Tolstoy's philosophy andliterature even though it is important to have some knowledge beforeembarking on this film as a background to his life and the politics ofRussia in this period. For those who are 'disappointed' - unfortunatelyyou missed the point. The essence of The Last Station is based on theemotional journey of Tolstoy in the last months of his life and hisrelationship to important people around him and what they representedin his vision, life's work and message to his people. His wife is thecrucial pivot of his love for life and mankind and Helen Mirren isoutstanding in her portrayal of the loyal passionate woman who wastotally bonded with her husband and understanding him like no other.The sycophants around him with their mis-placed ideology convey howtruth from sages is mostly mis-interpreted. There is also a beautifullove story as a sub plot which represents the young Tolstoy and hiswife in their younger years, with the disciple ultimately following theMaster is his life and learning and later years after Tolstoy's death.A truly wonderful film experience.
THE LAST STATION STARRING: Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Kerry Condon, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, John Sessions and Patrick Kennedy WRITTEN BY: Michael Hoffman; based on the novel by Jay Parini DIRECTED BY: Michael Hoffman Rated: R Genre: Drama Release Date: 04 December 2009I love and adore Sandra Bullock and am happy for her that she received an Oscar. But if you ask me, it belonged to Helen Mirren for her performance in The Last Station. I was blown away. She was so natural, so sensational, and so terrific; as was the film as a whole, but we'll get to that shortly. Mirren plays Sofya Tolstoy; the wife of legendary Russian author Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). At times they seem like the perfect couple, but soon we realize that their long lasting relationship is plagued with problems and mistrust. Leo has gained such notoriety for his fame in writing, that his wife fears others will take advantage of him for his wealth, and that if he should pass, she will be left with nothing. This fear is birthed primarily by a snooty little man by the name of Vladimir, played nicely by Paul Giamatti. Vladimir wants Leo to sign something that would handover creative control to some of his most astounding works. James McAvoy also gives a radiant performance as Valentin; a promising young man plagued by his youthful insecurities so much that he has found himself to be a man, and yet still a virgin. He is hired on to assist Leo, and the two generate a rather wholesome friendship; Valenitn no doubt reminding Leo of himself as a youngster. Valentin's friendship with Leo grows and thus causes him to be concerned for not only the old poet's health, but for what is to happen to his name, his wealth, his work, and his estate, should he leave this earth. I loved to romance that thrived between Leo and Sofya; it was believable and filled with gloriously fun moments that were shadowed perfectly with ugly, dark ones. These actors are two truly gifted spirits indeed, and they did this film a supreme justice. In addition to the Tolstoy romance, there is a younger one as well. A beautiful worker on Leo's estate named Sasha (Kerry Condon) is keen to Valentin's unique awkwardness and blinding charm. She smells it as easily as blood in the water to a shark; virgin! She's older, more experienced, and all the wiser, and she feeds on his innocence. Both deliver great perfect performances and they share a very intimate moment that was one of the steamiest of 2009.The film is based on the real life of Leo Tolstoy, but it often feels like a play. Nearly the entire thing takes place in one central location (you can relax, it's very large and elegant; not the least bit boring) and these characters go through such small scales of playwright drama; but it's the way they handle them that turns them into massive cinematic treasures, and its divinely entertaining. Somehow, I haven't the slightest clue how, but somehow, this film did not find itself nominated for best picture at the Oscars, which is astounding; especially considering there were a whopping 10 freaking nominees! It surely should have been nominated - at the very least, and I can think of more than one film that was nominated, the spot of which this gem could have rightfully plucked for itself.
The Last Station follows Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), a member ofthe Tolstoyan movement, who is sent to aid Tolstoy in convincing him tosign over the rights to his work to the people of Russia, and not tohis wife, the Countess. Pushing the cause is Tolstoy's longtime friendVladamir Certkov (Paul Giamatti), who has never seen eye to eye withthe Countess.McAvoy finds himself caught between the Tolstoyan movement and theworld that the Countess and even Tolstoy himself show him. Where peopleare not meant to follow rules and follow their heart. Although themovement preaches Tolstoy's ideas, it is clear that Tolstoy is notentirely live by their rules, and he is the first person to admit it.In the community of followers that live near Tolstoy, Masha (KerryCondon) presents a physical attraction to Valentin, something forbiddenby the movement. Their relationship and the relationship of theCountess and Tolstoy starts to deter him from the course of actionVladamir sent him on.I didn't know much about Tolstoy prior to the film and came away with abrand new perspective on the man. He is a man who believes that peopleshould look to their heart, to love, and throw away materialpossessions. The countess shares that love belief, but is more of arealist, siting that the wealth that they have is a blessing. Tolstoyhas every intention to turn over all of his wealth and work when hepasses on. They share an interesting dynamic. It is obvious that thetwo love each other dearly, but they never seem to make any progresswhen it comes to their beliefs.Plummer and Mirren turn in fantastic performances, well worthy of theirnominations. Mirren gives her all as the struggling wife who must tryand survive in a Tolstoyan house where even her own daughter sides withVladamir. She is convincing both with her dialogue and physical acting.She is one of the premiere actresses working today and will continue tobe if she keeps giving us performances like this one.Plummer's portrayal of Tolstoy could be dead on or dead wrong. Itdoesn't matter. It works. He felt like a real person and not someonewho thought he was high and mighty because of his notoriety. He is akind, caring, but opinionated man who feels strongly that what he isdoing is right. We see as the film goes on that his age and ailinghealth does take a toll on him, and Plummer plays with it brilliantly.Excellent performances by McAvoy and Giamatti, two other actors who asof late have been doing excellent work. I'm more familiar withGiamatti's work but have come fond of what McAvoy can do on the screen.This is a film driven by story and it's characters. The technicalaspects don't have to be spectacular, which they aren't, and that'sokay. I wasn't looking for a wonderfully photographed film. Just apretty movie with great acting. The one thing I must make note of isthe costume design. I really enjoyed the authentic looking Russianclothing. It gives the film the right mood.
The last months of Tolstoy's life have been used to explore somefundamental elements of human relationships. The core nature of loveboth in its infancy, represented by the characters Valentin and Masha,and in maturity, as represented between Tolstoy and his wife, iswonderfully revealed. Of course people argue like hell as they getolder but can they still love each other deeply. That is a vitallyimportant point often lost in modern society but one which this film istrying to express. The handicap of wealth and the weakness it bringsupon its holders, the corruption of any core ideology through thefanaticism of its followers are other important themes in thisbrilliant work. Oscars were certainly due to Helen Mirren as the Countess Tolstoy,Christopher Plummer as the man himself and the screenplay but of coursethe bias against intellectualism in Hollywood prevented any beingawarded. This is a must see production for anyone with a mind.
Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren received Academy Award nominationsfor their roles as Russian author Lev* Tolstoy and Countess SofyaTolstaya, respectively. The movie focuses on the "War and Peace"author's last few weeks alive in 1910, and is told through the eyes ofyoung Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), a young secretary sent to workfor Tolstoy.I should say that the portrayal of Sofya's frustration with herhusband's dying wishes (to leave his work to the Russian people,thereby leaving her nothing) was pretty over-the-top, but I couldunderstand her feelings. I thought that the movie could have gone intoTolstoy's revolutionary sentiments that he expressed in his novels, butI found it to be a pretty good movie overall. I recommend it.I should also note that I could hear some mispronunciations. They saidsoh-FEE-ya an-dray-EV-na, when the correct pronunciation is SOH-fyaan-DRAY-ev-na. Also, the word for exit at the end of the movie used themodern spelling without the hard sign (which Russian dropped after therevolution).But mostly it's a really good movie. Also starring Paul Giamatti,Anne-Marie Duff and Kerry Condon.*In English, we usually say Leo Tolstoy, but Lev (Russian for "lion")is the name in Russian.
I wonder how biographical this movie actually is, whether Tolstoy andwife really had such a tempestuous relationship, and whether therereally was a Valentin Bulgakov character who was around in Tolstoy'slast years to be the point-of-view from which the movie plays out. I'mnot sure if Bulgakov was also supposed to personify - or counter-personify - Tolstoy's teachings. It would help to have had someknowledge of Tolstoy going into the movie. They do tell you a bit abouthim but just enough for you to keep up.No matter. The Last Station is very entertaining. There is humor aboundand the actors are great, most notably Helen Mirren, who gets to be ahistrionic diva, which is always fun. It was a little confusing at theonset as all the actors, though playing Russians, were speaking with aBritish accent, so it took a while for me to figure out they were a)Russian and b) not in the UK. Also, I think some of the characters'motivations were unavoidably lost in adaptation, since the movie onlyfocuses on Tolstoy's last years, so it left me with questions that willnever be answered (without much research).
I won't make you lose time with introductions or telling you about thehistory of the movie. I will better focus on the elements that make ofthis movie a great one! First of all, it's a plot of passions, love andthe sense of the latter ones. It's a movie based on real facts and realpersons, but this won't bore you for a second. The scenes are highlycured to the the most insignificant detail. The actors are very goodand inspire emotions in the viewers. They are realistic (or betterreal, really existed), with very credible and not stereotypicalpersonalities (even the ideologist that seems to have the ideas quiteclear and not change his thoughts of a half inch till the end of themovie, he sheds a tear at the end of the movie) . This movie takes intoreflection on many deep topics (such as Would the richness of a man beable to help to the struggling poorness of a country?; Would this be agesture of love to the mankind or just an act of disrespectfulselfishness to the real beloved ones?) Public this movie might be appropriate to: It takes intense sentimentsin order to deeply understand this movie, otherwise it may get you intoboredom. If you don't like this movie in the first 20 minutes, don'tput yourself into severe pain, this is not meant for you. It's the kindof a movie you should see it by yourself or with someone that surelylikes the genre.Cons I'm struggling to find some cons here. One con may be indeed thefact that this movie is made for only one kind of public, the one I'vespoken above. In poor words, this movie will whether be a blast or be alimitless boredom.Vote 9 out of 10.
As The Last Station begins, Leo (more correctly Lev or Liev) Tolstoy(Christopher Plummer) has given up novel-writing for the disseminationof his own personal Tolstoyan ideology based on a literalinterpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus. It calls upon theprivileged to devote themselves to vegetarianism, pacifism, and helpingthe poor. Tolstoy's ideas about non-violent resistance were later tohave a strong influence on Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At this pointcommunities in Russia have been set up to practice his principles, andwe glimpse one, though Tolstoy himself lives at one remove from it onhis big estate, eighty-something, long-bearded, still riding horses,writing, and arguing (often affectionately) with his wife. Given tofits of generosity that have long infuriated her, he's now planning toturn over the rights to his literary works (War and Peace, AnnaKarenina, and the rest) to the Russian people. This means royaltieswon't go to his heirs. Sofya (Helen Mirren), his passionate andoutspoken wife of 48 years, is vehemently opposed to this, which shesees as an abandonment of the rights and needs of Tolstoy's own family.She was supposed to be the literary executor. Her chief opponent onthis issue aside from Tolstoy himself is his arch-supporter andsecretary, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti); Chertkov's vying withSofya for control of the rights.And vying is hardly the word; hyperventilating might be moreappropriate. Mirren shouts. Plummer growls. Giamatti barks. The LastStation is a heavy-breathing historical weepie. It's a Russo-Germanproduction in which everything happens and nothing happens andeverybody speaks English. More British than Russian despite itsauthentic-looking costumes and sets, this is one of those poshMasterpiece Theater-style productions that draws you in but never feelsquite convincing. It's a feast of overacting, tumult, and peasantclothing made to order for older members of the middle-class art houseaudience. It's hard to see who's the greatest drama queen here, thoughMirren, who's played a remarkable array of great women in her timeincluding the wife of Caligula, a gangland kingpin's moll and -- inmore restrained mode -- a very un-drama queen Queen of England,probably earns the scenery-chewing prize; she lets out all the stops.The yelling, hissing, ranting, and sobbing never stop. Sometimes, asthey send out great puffs of black smoke and chug noisily into remoteRussian outposts, including Astapovo station where the writer lives hislast days, even the antique railway trains seem to be overacting.As a wide-eyed and innocent new secretary named Valentin sent byChertkov to spy on the family, the young Scottish actor James McAvoyblushes, grins, tears up, and sneezes -- nervous reactions because he'sso happy and awed to be in the presence of the great man; thecutesy-ness of this is cloying. The cast also includes McAvoy'sreal-life wife Anne-Marie Duff, as Sasha, Tolstoy's daughter. ButValentin isn't involved with Sasha; he connects with a feisty youngmember of the household at Tolstoy's country estate called Masha (KerryCondon). Masha agrees with the idealistic ethical principles of thegroup but thinks everyone's a pompous bore. Tolstoy seems to be againstsex, but Valentin breaks the rules with Masha. McAvoy chews up thescenery in his own way. His character's rather saccharine puritycontrasts with the overbearing power struggle and ideologicalposturing, but never really becomes clearly relevant to the main drama.Maybe he's meant to draw in a younger audience for the movie, but theeffort is feeble.Much is made of separations and reunions. Masha leaves the estate,putting Valentin in a quandary. He's too wound up in the Tolstoy familydrama to go and join her but it's his loss. Tolstoy is bent on endinghis days like a monk and goes off leaving Sofya behind to abandoneverything in a remote area, but he never makes it beyond the trainstation at Astapovo, where he falls ill. Sofya comes, is sent away,comes back. It all ends in a funeral scene full of Russian peasantfaces (recruited actually in Germany, where the film was mostly shot),a sequence Eisenstein would have done much better. This story is anexample of the irony of the rich and famous posing as simple souls.Tolstoy thinks himself alone in his last days but there are hundreds ofjournalists and photographers outside and the note-taking every time heopens his mouth never ceases.Christopher Plummer, who really is 80, is a real acting lion. He'sgrand in his long gray beard and looks quite like the real Tolstoy. Butwhat he's doing is hamming it up. Giamatti, a good journeyman whosebest roles are still the lovable losers he played in American Splendorand Sideways, looks a lot like the real Chertkov and if we're just notmeant to like him, he's done enough. Mirren is a great actress, buthere she's just shrill. Plummer's and Mirren's foreplay scene in whichthey cavort in bed and cock-a-doodle-do and giggle is about asembarrassing as discreet art house cinema can get. Working from arecent historical novel by Jay Parini, Michael Hoffman has notexercised sufficient restraint over his cast in this misguided effort.The actors are at their most, but not at their best. And, worse yet,it's never clear what we're supposed to make of these people, andwhether Tolstoy's last days were futile, tragic, or just highlypublicized.
I've never read much about or anything written by Leo Tolstoy though like most I know the name and the books he was famous for, most notably WAR AND PEACE. So going into this film I had no idea that the man called by some the greatest novelist to ever live was behind a movement let alone a pacifist. And yet with THE LAST STATION we not only get a glimpse of that side of him but its effect on those around him.The film takes place in Tolstoy's later years. As played by Christopher Plummer (in an Oscar nominated role), Tolstoy loves his family but fills him time as much with writing and furthering the cause of Tolstoyans. The Tolstoyans considered themselves Christians but based their faith more on the teachings of Jesus and less on the church, feeling that the church had connected itself far too much in the workings of the government. Tolstoyans also were a devoutly non-violent group of anarchists who also believed in sexual abstinence.The central piece of the film revolves around a battle between Tolstoy's wife Sofya (Helen Mirren who was also nominated) and Vladimir Chetlov (Paul Giamatti), the head of the Tolstoyan organization. Their battle revolves around the rights to the works of Tolstoy. His wife believes he should leave them to her and his children, giving them the opportunity to live well after he would pass away. Chetlov believed he should sign the rights over to public domain so that the word could spread about his beliefs. While this might seem noble, there are always undercurrents that run beneath anyone's motives.Chetlov sends a new secretary to Tolstoy named Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy). A Tolstoyan, Valentin is given the task of writing down everything he observes and reporting back to Chetlov. Amazingly enough, once he arrives he is given the exact opposite assignment by Sofya as well as a second journal.What follows is a discovery of the reality of Tolstoy and his life as seen through Valentin's eyes. What one writes may be one thing but at the same time Tolstoy lived a life that was far from what his followers demanded of themselves. Tolstoy here is a man of great passion for life, great love for his wife and family and a man who wanted a better world and did all he could to make it so. As Valentin watches the battles between husband and wife, he also sees the love and emotion the pair share as well. And by the end of the film he is witness to the hypocrisy of members of the group as well as the conspiracies laid out by both parties in an attempt to get what they want.The film moves at a steady pace never relying on action but more on storytelling to tell the tale. It's not just about this battle over the will but a glimpse at fame, fortune and the baggage it brings with it. It's a story that shows how far fanaticism will influence people who seem more intent on their own beliefs and desires than those of the group. And it's a story of love that is discovered as Valentin suspends his beliefs for a woman he meets and falls in love for after seeing the affections shared between Tolstoy and his wife.The movie offers some of the best acting I've seen in some time. Each actor gives a performance that leaves you feeling as if they are the characters and not just portraying them. Never once will you find yourself checking the clock to see how much longer the film is. It holds your interest from start to finish.Perhaps the best thing about this film is that it makes you want to dig just a bit into history to find our more about the real story. And to take a look at Tolstoy's books and do a little reading. One thing is certain. This movie will entertain and enlighten just a bit and make you realize that, as Tolstoy seemed to believe, love is at the root of everything.
Really outstanding film! Acting, cinematography, wardrobes, all of it. I wondered why there hadn't been more talk of Oscar nods for this one. Guess nobody's seen it..... Both the story and the acting were exceptional. It's unfortunate that this one is not in wider release. Helen M. was phenomenal, maybe even more so than she was as "The Queen." Mcavoy, Plummer, Giamatti etc. all exceptional acting in this.
THE LAST STATION Â CATCH IT ( B- ) The last Station is Biography offamous philosopher & writer Leo Tolstoy & his relationship with hiswife in final years of his lifeÂ The movie is like a Biography So, itseems lengthy at timesÂ Helen Mirren Standout in the movie she is Indeedthe Queen of HollywoodÂ Her portrayal of an agonizing & loving wife isExcellentÂ James McAvoy is Charming as Alwayz. Christopher Plummer,Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff & Kerry Condon have done a fine job withtheir roles. I wished they have showed us a little work and Impact ofLeo Tolstoy to the society... So the viewers who are not familiar withhis work can have an Idea... Otherwise Just like me, just Google it!
The Last Station, director Michael Hoffman's melodrama about the lastmonths in the life of Leo Tolstoy, begins with fog and sleep. Tolstoy(Christopher Plummer) lives with his family in a compound at YasnayaPolyana, taking walks and writing and being seen to by his wife and theadherents to his "movement", people dedicated to his ideas of pacifism,vegetarianism, sexual abstinence and communal property who havegathered in a forest camp not far away. His wife, Sophia (Helen Mirren)wars openly with the head of his movement Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), whoshe claims in his efforts to convince Tolstoy to sign the rights to hisworks over to the Russian people is trying to steal the wealth that isowed to her upon her husbands imminent death. Observing all of this isTolstoy's new steward, Bulgakov (James McAvoy), a naive adherent who istorn between his love of the man and concern for his wife.Hoffman's script, which is based on the novel by Jay Parini, quiteoften veers itself into confused territory, building up a complextangle of threads and opaque motivations that ultimately don't resolvethemselves in any satisfying way. The scope of the film is grand, andits story should reverberate just as Tolstoy, whose beliefsforeshadowed in some ways both the Bolsheviks' and those of pacifistslike Ghandi. It unfortunately doesn't, it's un-unpickable, building upwith much gusto confrontations that are constantly ravelling off intonothingness. The three-way relationship between the Church, thefaithful Sophia and the unbelieving Tolstoy, for example, is referencedoften. In the last section of the film a mute priest in a magnificenthat even shows up, but the script never expands on this beyondawkwardly inserting it into the story as an attempt at enriching it orproviding some semblance of historical accuracy. There are a ton ofdetails in the film, but not enough attention is paid to most of themand as a result the film feels cluttered, overburdened, energetic butunfortunately pointless.At its heart is the love story between Sophia and Tolstoy, and thatstory, as baffling and cramped as it is, is the reason to watch thefilm. Mirren and Plummer are, unsurprisingly, the best things in thefilm. Plummer's Tolstoy is vague, at once confused and resolute,apprehensive and full of joy and certainty. Mirren's Sophia is in fullpanic, in a righteous lather, forced to watch and expected to be muteas her husband gives away his time, his possessions and his money topeople who are unquestionably devoted to him but also clearly inpossession of their own agendas. They're great performances, all themore so given the vast gulf between the real importance of the couple'splace in history and the script's ability to support that, both Sophiaand Tolstoy seem willed into the film by Mirren and Plummer alone, bothmaking the best they can out of what meagre material is there. Giammatiand McAvoy, both talented actors, are unable to do the same andGiamatti's Chertkov seems neither a revolutionary nor a thief (and notboth at once, either) but rather a cipher, a stand-in for a wholepackage of unresolved anxieties and aborted historical impulses. Thescope of this thing never boils down to anything, it hitches along,getting by on the strength of Plummer and Mirren and not much else.It's interesting and pretty, but ultimately unrewarding. 4.5/10