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  • The Luzhin Defence
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The Luzhin Defence

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DVD 1-Disc Version
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Editorial Reviews


Special Features

  • Making-of featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: John Turturro, Emily Watson, Geraldine James, Stuart Wilson, Christopher Thompson
  • Directors: Marleen Gorris
  • Writers: Peter Berry, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Producers: Andrew Warren, Caroline Wood, Eric Robison, Jody Allen, Leo Pescarolo
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2001
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005N91D
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,833 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Luzhin Defence" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on February 25, 2002
Format: DVD
Obsession comes in many flavors, and exists for a variety of reasons; for some it may be nothing more than a compulsive disorder, but for others it may be an avenue of survival. Lack of nurturing, combined with an inability to negotiate even the simplest necessities of daily life or the basic social requirements, may compel even a genius to enthusiastically embrace that which provides a personal comfort zone. And in extreme cases, the object of that satisfaction may become a manifested obsession, driving that individual on until what began as a means of survival becomes the very impetus of his undoing, and as we discover in "The Luzhin Defence," directed by Marleen Gorris, a high level of intelligence will not insure a satisfactory resolution to the problem, and in fact, may actually exacerbate the situation. Obsession, it seems, has no prejudice or preference; moreover, it gives no quarter.
At an Italian resort in the 1920's, Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro) is one of many who have gathered there for a chess tournament, the winner of which will be the World Champion. Luzhin is a Master of the game, but he is vulnerable in that chess has long since ceased to be a game to him; rather, it is his obsession, that one thing discovered in childhood that saw him though his total ineptness in seemingly all areas of life, and enabled him to cope with the subtle disenfranchisements of his immediate family. So Luzhin is a genius with an Achilles heel, a flaw which perhaps only one other person knows about and understands, and furthermore realizes can be exploited for his own personal gain at this very tournament. That man is Valentinov (Stuart Wilson), Luzhin's former mentor, who after an absence of some years has suddenly reappeared and made himself known to Luzhin.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Anna Otto on May 18, 2001
Nabokov's tale of chess, love, and madness might have been challenging to bring to the big screen canvass, but apparently not so for Marlin Gorris. The chess figures come to life, the city hall where the chess championship is being played for. It seems a struggle between life and death itself for Alexander Luzhin, a Russian virtuoso whose life basically divides into three parts: the brief childhood before chess, then a long life after he learned to play, and finally a moment when he came to the resort in Italy and fell in love with his beautiful countrywoman, played here with gentleness and strength (a combination that only she could pull off) by Emily Watson. John Turturro and she share a chemistry that is hard not to sympathize with, and their plight to survive what seems an increasingly high-stakes game is admirable.
Luzhin is obsessed with chess to the point approaching insanity; we see flashes of his childhood and youth that perhaps led to his rapidly worsening condition. He is a strange figure, eccentric and lovable. It's no surprise that Nataliya feels the need to rescue him from himself - he can barely take care of his clothes or health, spending most of his time rehearsing chess matches in his head and rarely aware of his surroundings. What doesn't help either of them is the appearance of a devious, jealous mentor from Alexander's past who feels the need to ruin his ex-prodigy's possible happiness or the first place in the tournament. Nataliya's family who is very much against this coupling is fun to watch - her mother and father provide some not so rare and very welcome moments of mirth in this sometimes dark film. Watching this story unfurl, one indeed comes to understand why behind every great man there stands a great woman.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Miller on May 20, 2001
Visually. And emotionally. One of the most beautiful and rewarding films I've ever seen. Equal in quality and power to "In the Belly of an Architect." Man against himself. The value of love. Individuality in thought and courage. Style in losing (not saying by whom). Vladimir Nabokov created the original novel, Peter Berry wrote the screenplay (why are writers downplayed so much?), and Marlene Gorris directed. More credit yet to the cinematographer and to fine actors Emily Watson and John Turturro (he's good enough to deserve a slot on "The Sopranos"). An easy five stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. D. Welsh on February 13, 2005
Format: DVD
Having read Vladimir Nabokov's novel "The Defence", on which this film is based, many years ago, I was fascinated to see how the director would rise to a very challenging task. I was not disappointed: although the story is interpreted in a noticeably different way, it becomes a moving and remarkably unsentimental study of a strange, uniquely talented man and the young woman who suddenly and inexplicably falls in love with him.

There are certain technical constraints. In the novel, Nabokov spends a lot of time depicting Luzhin's internal states of mind. The chess-related flights of fantasy have mostly been eliminated, but John Turturro - who gives a magnificent performance throughout - successfully conveys Luzhin's bumbling, inconsequential attempts to comply with the social requirements of the situations he encounters. Very occasionally, one of the actors reminds one of a historic chess player - at times Turturro, unshaven and distracted, has overtones of Tal, and Fabio Sartor's suave Turati combines Capablanca's elegance with flashes of Kasparov's self-assurance.

The chess specifics are, sadly, not very accurate. Even in the 1930s, the world championship was never decided by a single game played between the winners of two sections of a tournament! Real grandmasters do not usually slam their clocks hard enough to break them, nor are they often surprised by snap checkmates in the endgame (although it has happened). But these compromises can be excused as artistic license, with the aim of making the story more exciting for non-players.

Everything else is beautifully done - the period sets, clothes and manners, the interplay of sporting dedication with business ambition and even romance, burgeoning suddenly in the most unexpected place and time.
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