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Anton Chekhov's The Duel Review

By David Kempler

Dueling Russkis

I have a confession to make: I have never read anything by Anton Chekhov. Sure, I know his name as being a revered author, but, what can I say? Please forgive me. What I have done, though, is sit in a chair and watch the latest screen version of his novella, "The Duel", and it made me understand why he is an author held in high international esteem.

The title of "The Duel" refers both to a physical duel with guns and to the animosity between Laevsky (Andrew Scott), a man who has fled to the Black Sea with a married woman, and Von Koren (Tobias Menzies), a zoologist who looks at Laevsky with great distaste because, to him, Laevsky essentially does nothing except drink, pose and whine. Von Koren is no bargain either; he's pompous and suffers from feelings of great superiority.

Laevsky's financial life is in decline, partially from growing gambling debts. At a party, his stress reaches a high point, resulting in his experiencing a fit that sees him barking like a dog. Von Koren jumps on Laevsky's deterioration the next day, taunting him mercilessly, causing Laevsky to challenge Von Koren to a duel. Von Koren accepts and it's pistols at 20 paces. The results of the duel move everyone's lives in new directions.

Dover Kosashvili directs this adaptation by Mary Bing and he presents us with a beautiful-looking version. There is not much tension to speak of, but that's a function of Chekhov's writing style rather than the direction of Koshavili (I've learned that from reading up on Chekhov). I suppose the best thing I can say about "The Duel" is that it has made me curious enough to actually purchase the book, so Kosashvili has done good work. If you've never read Chekhov's novella, give it a shot. If you have already read the novella, I'll leave it up to you.

What did you think?

Movie title The Duel
Release year 2009
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary Two annoying men end up in a duel that neither particularly desires, in Chekhov's famous tale.
View all articles by David Kempler
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