Film review: ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL from Built For Speed

Anotn Chekhov’s The Duel is based on the author’s 1891 novella of the same name which sets a seething tale of infidelity, passionate conflict, intellectual debate and decaying society in the deceptively sedate world of a seaside resort in the Caucasus in 19th century Russia.

The film centres on Laevsky (Andrew Scott) an angry drunken layabout and self- proclaimed intellectual who’s having an affair with a married woman Nadya (Fiona Glascott) who he now wishes to abandon.  His selfish and increasingly bizarre behaviour sees him clash with a visiting scientist Von Koren (Tobias Menzies).

The film depicts a microcosm of 19th century Russian society: scientists, clergymen, soldiers and a crumbling, corrupt aristocracy.  Through Chekhov’s superbly insightful language (adapted for the screen by Mary Bing), the film explores the beliefs and the rigid social rules that govern this world and the way new modes of thought such as Darwin’s theories begin to challenge these rules.

Thankfully, amid the drama and the weighty themes, the film weaves in a lively sense of humour.

A few stiff and stagey efforts aside, performances are mostly excellent with Scott a bitter, feverish villain and Glascott a stunning but duplicitous mistress.

This is an unusual story that may have proven difficult for audiences to connect with but a fine cast of British and Irish actors, vivid cinematography from Paul Sarossy and engaging direction from Dover Koshavili, immerse us in the story.

This is one of those low key gems that often slip under the radar, so see it where it’s meant to be viewed, on the big screen.


Rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: PG

Director: Dover Koshashvili

Release date:  7th June 2012

Running  time: 95 min

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