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This review is from: Onegin (DVD)
There are two theories of translation -- one that you should stick as literally to the original as possible, the other that you should take certain liberties to get a good end result. I adhere to the views of the latter school.
Pushkin has managed to move one of the greatest nations on the earth to the core, to unify them for 200 years. Many Russians would say Evgenii Onegin is Russia's greatest literary work. But the original is in rhyme, a rhyme that feels sort of baroque and fairy-tale-ish to me, and that part of it doesn't translate well to the modern English-speaking range of sentiment.
A Russian sculptor friend of mine once asked me what the difference was between art and decoration, and when I had no answer, he said, "Decoration is about many things. Art is about one Thing."
Onegin is about one thing, and that one thing is faithfully preserved in this film. The film leaves out lots of lesser things, which point to this one thing, but you have to make choices to fit the world into two hours. That one thing is heart and mind of Evgenii -- what makes a man say no to that which he loves and wants above everything else? What makes a man deceive himself into believing he (and even she) don't want it? What becomes of such a man?
God is great.
Tatyana sees right through him even in her moment of greatest agony and she never wavers. It makes me dizzy to think how much pain I might have been spared had I had such insight at 17. And that aspect of Pushkin's story strikes me as beautifully unrealistic. As Pushkin said, "A great story must be a little... hmmm... 'glupovat'..." Perhaps 'dorky' would serve as a translation?
Ralph and Liv act beautifully. (I hadn't given Liv Tyler sufficient benefit of the doubt -- she understands her role and conveys such depth to it.) But I think first prize must go to the director for seeing this one clearly.