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"...for Ilia Ilyich, lying down was neither a necessity, as it is for a sick man, nor an occasional need, as it is for one who is tired. It was his normal state".
Based on the classic novel by Ivan Goncharov, this is a strange but fascinating film about lethargy as a form of escape, as the melancholy Ilia Ilyich Oblomov (in a wonderful performance by Oleg Tabakov) avoids his problems by sleeping, while his world crumbles around him. His avoidance of making decisions gets complicateed when a childhood friend introduces him to Olga (Elena Solovei).
Written (along with Alexander Adabashian), and directed by Nikita Mikhalkov ("Burnt by the Sun", "Anna"), it has gorgeous cinematography by Pavel Lebeshev, who makes some scenes have the look of old paintings.
If you like your films with a lot of action, this one is not for you, and perhaps its delicacy makes it a "woman's film", though it is a thoughtful, and sometimes very funny film...the scene where Oblomov finds out about the older suitor is hilarious.
This is one that is worthy of several viewings, as it explores Oblomov's fear, his love, the simplicity/complexity of his life. There is a lovabale innocence about him that is endearing, and the end always touches me deeply, with its exquisite Rachmaninov choral piece...a fitting ending to this lovely work of art.
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Up front, this is a great story -- a saga of a very likeable and gullible man who flounders in life and whom refuses to leave his sofa. The story begins in 1859, two years prior to the "freeing" of the Russian serfs and the heyday of the Czars and of the near-useless Russian Nobility. Oblomov's life-long serf-servant, Zhakar, is priceless. Zhakar will quickly have you rolling on the floor, howling with laughter. The cinematography of Oblomov is superior and the subtitles are well-done, quite readable and an excellent translation from the Russian. Yes, the director had to cut a lot from the original lengthy work of Goncharov, but the tale is still well-told. This is one of those films that convinces me that Russian directors have a much finer sense of art and story-telling than do most American film-makers. It represents humor for the thinking person. Don't miss this wonderful tragi-comedy. A rare piece of film art.
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on June 15, 2010
Im not going to say what the movie is about exactly, since you might want to watch it. Let me just touch on a few strokes that I think will make this movie likable..

The character of Oblomov is far from being Oleg Tabakov's debut work. A highly refined character - no one could do it better than him. Laziness and cat-like mellowness, utter lack of interest for life and outburst of joliness - those could be some typical characteristics of what Goncharov might ve thought a dying breed - Russian nobility. Indeed the revolution of 1908, and later 1917 was not so far away..

As for the film itself, i found it, like all psychological films a bit hard to watch - the mirror is just too well polished. But let us consider my friends - at the time when there was a scarce contact between the 2 souperpowers, this film has been sold to and made it in the United States. Perhaps that's is more than a coincidence. In any case, I like having it in my little movie library.
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on December 16, 2015
And read the book. It is also a treasure.
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on January 30, 2014
This film is based on a great book by the Russian author Gogol and the film is true to the book. The story takes place in the countryside in pre-revolutionary Russia and the lead character is a certain classic Russian type. Perhaps it helps to be born of parents who fled the Russian revolution to really "get" this guy but I found it to be incredibly evocative and well-acted. It is also a good study of the Russian character as compared to the more Germanic influences in Russia at the time.
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on November 23, 2015
Enticed by a friend, Svetlana Alliluyeva watched in New York City this film that so much
reminiscing brought to her. Perhaps the never relieve of having being abandom
by her mother, at the tender age of six, who committed suicide to escape Stalin abuse and insolence,
in November 8, 1932 made Svetlana to come back to the same movie theater for
a second time, this time all by herself.
Poetical movie.
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Oblomov is movie making at its best, although not for those looking for action or adventure. Everthing about this film is beautiful, particularly the music and scenery, both of which play an integral part in the story. Also, the acting is superb, especially Oleg Tabakov, who plays Oblomov.
At its heart Oblomov is a story about a soul's search to recapture the lost love of a child for his beloved mother. Oblomov, the title of the film and the name of the main character, is a quiet, introverted, unhappy Russian in his mid-thirties who is lost in his world of dreams. In much of the first part of the film Oblomov struggles to get out of bed. Only his childhood friend Stoltz has enough influence over Oblomov to rouse him from his lethargy and his dreams. Stoltz leaves for England and Oblomov promises to meet him in Paris. That promise is left unfulfilled.
Oblomov does move to his country estate in Part 2 of the film and he falls in love with his neighbor Olga. We watch as Oblomov attempts to share his feelings with Olga, but he is so insecure and unsure of himself that he can only stare at Olga with his heartbreakingly sad eyes. She tells him that she loves him, but at first, this drives him away. It seems that "his love is this fear. He nourishes it who can nourish nothing. Love's slipshod watchman."(Yevtushenko) Indeed, at one point, he sits all night in a gazebo outside Olga's window in a thunderstorm waiting for the sun to rise on his love. The viewer will not be surprised if Oblomov fails to connect with Olga.
Everything I have mentioned happens slowly and deliberately and might fail to keep our attention if it were not for a narrator who fills in some spaces with commentary about Oblomov's inner life and his history, told in flashbacks and with artistic stage sets. The most hauntinly beautiful music I have ever heard in a film supports the narration and those times when we quietly wait and watch in the countryside with Oblomov as he dreams about a life that might be. Both music and scenery add richness and depth to the story and give it a wholeness not often found in films.
Once viewed, we may select some favorite parts of the movie to add beauty to our day. Great art and music bring us back for second, third, and fourth encounters and this is certain to be the case for many people with this wonderful film. Highly recommended for the lover of theater, art, and music.
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on July 4, 2004
This film captures some of the feeling of the Goncharev novel, which is one of the best books I've ever read. As with any movie about a lengthy literary work, this film glosses over the intricacies of the plot and is a superficial study of the characters. But given the intellectual intricacies of the novel, the director has to get five stars for the effort.
A principal plot line of the book contrasting the pure-heartedness of Oblomov and the conflict between this aspect of his (Russian) character and that of the Westernizers is completely absent. Since this conflict between traditional Russian social values (promoted by the Slavophiles as Russia's salvation) and the Euroopean approach to the world (promoted by the Westernizers) is critical to understanding Goncharev, the movie leaves a lot to be desired. The very interesting conclusion of the novel, in which the identity of the narrator is surprisingly revealed, is absent from the film or at least loses its dramatic impact.
For a commited Russophile, and especially someone who has read the Goncharev book, I recommend this film. But for others: skip the film, get the book and read it!
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on July 9, 2007
Based on a beloved novel by Ivan Goncharov, "Oblomov" combines the sensitivity of a Chekhov tale with the farcical tradition of Russian theater. As the title character, real-life stage director Tabakov is adorably ruffled, indecisive, undisciplined, and wholly empathetic--a perfect metaphor for Mother Russia in the pre-Glasnost era. Mikhalkov wrings a lot of mileage out of his hero's soulful struggles, contrasting the dreariness of the present with the gilded glow of childhood through his adroit use of color and lighting. A charming moral parable, "Oblomov" takes the measure of life, sees it lacking, and then builds to an acceptance of love's fulfillment.
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on August 27, 2008
Oblomov resigns his post as a civil servant at the age of 30 and thereafter spends entire days laying in bed daydreaming, bickering with his equally indolent servant, and generally preferring a life of quiet contemplation to a life of action for which he seems singularly unsuited. Oblomov's solitudes are punctuated by his dreams of an idyllic childhood and the peace and love he felt when in the warm embrace of his mother and it is to this kind of warm embrace that he longs to return hence his love of sleep, of escape from the mundane toilings of existence, and his pursuit of more dreams of that desired unity with his mother.

His best friend, Stoltz, is just the opposite. Stoltz is a man who is enlivened by worldly commerce and affairs. In contrast with the robust Stoltz who is completely at one with the world and succeeds at everything he attempts; Oblomov seems pathetic, childlike, incompetent, fragmented, will-less. Stoltz labels his friend's condition "Oblomovism" and sets about reforming him with a strict diet, a social agenda, and plans to take him abroad and stir in him an interest in the business of the world. But Oblomov's heart is not in it. He doesn't care at all that he looks 50 even though he is 30, he is mortified at the thought of having to socialize, and although he acquires an expensive set of luggage he has no intention of going abroad and leaving Russia.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, Oblomov meditates aloud to Stoltz about how his mind is full of so many dead things (religions, civilizations, dates, facts) and he expresses his desire to be at one with the world around him (as a leaf on a tree). In this moment the ever-active Stoltz is completely quieted by Oblomov's profound way of viewing existence. But the moment passes and Stoltz is once again swept up with the business of the world.

Despite his penchant for inertia, one thing does stir him from his solitude: Olga. Olga is a woman with a divided temperament. She seems to be a woman who thrives on social interaction and so seems to be naturally drawn to Stoltz who has a way of drawing her out and making her laugh, but there is also something about Oblomov that she is equally responsive too: his stillness, his poetic quiet, his longing to be at one with the world. Oblomov and Olga are each poetic souls who are mesmerized by natural beauty and each other, and so long as they are alone in the idyllic landscape of Oblomov's country estate where they have chosen to summer together they do seem to be at one with the world and each other. But when Stoltz returns from one of his world tours so does Olga's desire to be more involved with the world and so she turns her attentions once again toward him. But Olga is fascinating, her inner conflicts are never fully resolved, and even though she marries Stoltz, late in life she finds herself thinking once again of Oblomov.

The ending of this film is one of the most moving of any film that I can recall, and also one of the most evocative of life's enduring patterns, as well as its enduring promise (even though those promises are not always fulfilled or fulfillable).

I suppose it is possible to interpret Oblomov as being symbolic of Russia's insular and brooding separatism from Europe, and its refusal to let go of its past, to modernize, and adjust to the commercial age. And its also possible to see in Oblomov a precursor to the kinds of characters that would later appear in modernist works by Kafka and Beckett. But there is something about Oblomov that resists these kinds of historicizations. Like all great literature, Oblomov seems to symbolize something that is true about the human condition and life in all times.
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