Anton Chekhov’s short story is given a faithful, meticulously detailed & carefully observed spin in this prestigious Soviet production. But it’s dead to the touch. We open in Yalta by the sea where vacationing men flirt with the young, pretty & unaccompanied married thing who walks her dog every day by the shore. Finally, one aristo, a typically bored member of the species, breaks thru her reserve. But what starts as a superficial resort town affair becomes an obsession when they part for homes hundreds of miles apart. Brief, infrequent rendezvous are ghastly; and all they live for. It’s no life; it’s their only life. Director Iosih Kheifits nails everything down ‘just so,’ sets, costumes, emotions, but the leads remain cold & humorless (intentionally?) and there’s no ‘swing’ to the thing.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Max Ophuls was the master of this sort of romantic fatalism, as in THE EARRINGS OF MADAME D . . ./’53. Though you’d hardly call it Chekhovian! The closest film has gotten to the great Russian may well be THE MUSIC ROOM/’58 by India’s Satyajit Ray from a T. S. Bannerjee story. Go figure.