Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Michael Gambon, Jodhi May, Polly Walker, Dominic West, Luise Rainer
Director: Károly Makk
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
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Interesting Adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Novella & Its Origin
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/08/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Gambon ("Gosford Park" "Charlotte Gray" and to be seen as Headmaster in "Harry Potter" series replacing late Richard Harris) stars in this British / Hungarian production directed by veteran Karoly Makk from Hungary. As you know, "The Gambler" is a novella written by Dostoyevsky in 1866, but the film you see is not only the adaptation of the book but also about the process behind the birth of the original story. So, Gambon plays the writer Dostoyevsky while Johdi May is a stenographer Anna Grigorievna Snitkina hired by him, and gradually attracted to his personality. Maybe it is helpful to know that as a historical fact, because of an unwise contract with his unscrupulous publisher F.T.Stellovsky, Dostoyevsky had to deliver the novel of no fewer than 12 printer's pages (about 150-160 pages in today's paperback) within 27 days. If he fails, the publisher gets the right for publishing whatever he wrote without any royality for the next nine years. The task is impossible; Dostoyevsky, difficult and easily irritated, and pestered by creditors, is sufering from a disease. But the work must be finished; otherwise, Anna and the writer gets nothing.Among this real-life events evolves a novella "The Gambler" which follows a life of a Russian tutor Alexey Ivanovich smong the colorful characters in a certain spa. Alexey passionately loves Polina Alexandrovna (Polly Walker, "Enchanted April"), but he soon finds himself drawn to another thing: gambling. While Polina acts before him unaccountably -- she may or may not love him -- and one night Alexey stakes every penny he has to possess her -- but can he win the game? Or her heart?The film's basic idea is this; the two stories start to merge as the film goes on, and the border between fiction and reality crumbles. The idea itself is fine, I admit, but the result leaves much to be desired. Usually this double plot senario fails because one of them is too weak to be overwhelmed by the other, and "The Gambler" is no exception. Though the section of the evolving story captures the atmosphere of the casino and spa, the characters are reduced to mere cyphers, so if you have not read the book, you may be puzzled what happened to some of them. Another problem is the casting; let me say first that Michael Gambon's portrait of Dostoyevsky is simply fantastic, but at the same time, the real writer, it is known, is later to marry young Anna the stenographer. The film is accurate in describing the biographical fact, but sadly, there is no convincing chemstry between the two players Gambon and May. It is also confusing that Polly Walker is cast also as "Polina" Suslova, the supposed model of fictional Polina in "The Gambler." If you miss to see the historical references, which I am afraid are too meticulously made, you are left wondering what is going on the screen.However, all in all, I am satisfied with the film. As I said, the acting and photography are first-rate, and for those who are interested in Russian literature, it is a good chance to know the rather unknown facts and novel overshadowed by the writer's more famous novels like "Crime and Punishment." Trivia: check out Oscar-winner Luise Rainer as 'The Grandmother' the most eccentric character in "The Gambler." Now almost forgotten, but she is one of the few people who won two Oscars in a row, and this film is her "come-back" to the bigger screen after 54 years. And her performance is great!And at the time of writing this, it is officially known that Rob Reiner completed filming of "Loosely Based on a True Love Story" (currently titled), which deals with the same topic in the same way, starring Kate hudson and Luke Wilson. Ms. Rainer's role is to be played by Cloris Leachman."
Highly recommended to fans of Dostoyevsky
mnraft | Baltimore, Maryland United States | 07/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really like this movie. If you're interested in Dostoyevsky, it's well worth seeing (though it's a shame to have to buy it in order to do so.)The film is a "play within a play". It's a dramatization of the Dostoyevsky's novella, "The Gambler", which, let's face it, is third rate Dostoyevsky. But "The Gambler" does examine some issues important to the Dostoyevsky canon: his anti-European xenophobia, his attraction to impulsive anti-rational behavior. This part of the movie has a fine cast that includes Polly Walker and the Countess played by a star of the silent film era (whose name I don't recall) - her facial gestures are terrific.In addition much of this film dramatizes Dostoyevsky's life while he was writing "The Gambler". This period in 1866 was a critical one in Dostoyevsky's life, during which he met his much younger wife, the stenographer Anna Snitkina. Michael Gambon takes a fascinating stab at bringing to life the complex bundle of contradictions that was Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jodhi May makes a fine Anna. Their relationship as portrayed in this film is plausible: The sensible stenographer perceives the man's greatness and helps him bring his life somewhat under control."
Life, at best, is a game of chance
J. Vogelsang | Philadelphia, PA | 08/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Jodhi May (Anna Snitkina) and Michael Gambon (Feodor Dostoyevsky) meet and create one of the novelist's first well recognized works. Great Gambon, as the irascible and worldly writer. May's first professional outing after 3 years at Oxford, she shows the silent film facial nuances and character consumption so powerful in her current work.
Anna, a poor stenographer, takes this month long position as Dostoyevsky must complete an entire novel in one month's time or sacrifice his rights to all future work. Despite her forced live-in she commits herself, she needs the money. They work together, she feeding off the genius of the writer and fascination of his story, he pushing himself along on her enthusiasm. His habits wear them both down and she leaves.
I would recommend this film for its fun period drama, wonderful characterizations and mingling of true present story with the fictionalized written one, which at times was a little disconcerting. The great Louise Ranier takes a turn as the grandmother and teaches us all something about gambling.
But the best ride is of May and Gambon, 35 years apart in real age but aligned like the spokes of the carriage they ride to victory.