ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL captures much of the strange poetry of diffidence and indirection that makes Chekhov a great dramatist and his comic dramas so difficult to perform.

Indeed, one of the film’s achievements is to reveal the extent to which the author’s prose fiction, upon which it is based, possesses so many of the attributes that we associate with the plays, from the usual cast of provincial characters (country doctors, pining intellectuals, lovelorn suitors, servants and petty businessmen) to the time filling games and strolls with which they mark the dull compass of time.

Beyond that, the acting largely avoids the jarringly specific English speaking accents that sometimes spoil Chekhov in translation and, although I still have a prejudice against narrative film performances in languages other than the original (because it puts the dialogue at odds with the photographic realism of the images), there is just enough stylization in Dover Koshashvili‘s direction to make the language work as it can in the theater.

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