Film Review

Who would have thought that a period drama could be this BBC-esque, and still entertaining?

At the center of events is a chess tournament, and circling around this fountain of passion and insanity is a love affair between an eccentric chess player (John Turturro) and a rebellious, upper-class woman (Emily Watson). The latter is reminiscent of what might have happened to the character Rose from “”Titanic,”” that is, of course, had she not been on the Titanic.

Watson does a decent job of portraying the Russian Natalia, but the real treat is Turturro, who truly shines in his performance of Luzhin, a genius trapped in his own mind by circumstances and ruthless people who have exploited his talent.

Filmed on location in Italy and Hungary, this film will make you long for Europe even if you’ve never been there. The dancing, sophisticated atmosphere pulls you in and helps you suspend your disbelief enough to ignore the well-known fact that Russian society does not really speak perfect English.

A well-directed drama by heavily awarded Marleen Gorris unfolds around the two main characters. The fight for Luzhin’s mind and life heats up as he is about to become a chess champion.

On one side is Natalia, who sets out to save his sanity. On the other side is Valentinov, the man who brought Luzhin to fame and then to ruin as a chess player. He is obsessed with keeping Luzhin from victory.

The driving force of the story, however, is Luzhin’s own undying passion for chess, tangled up with his traumatic childhood, which he flashes back to on the screen of his mind.

If you never thought you’d be excited about a romance again after your expectations were disastrously sunk with the aforementioned “”Titanic,”” and if you never really understood why people get into chess, this film might just change your mind.

The patterns of rise to fall, attack to defense and black against white are repeated through the rich texture of the story, and you come out refreshed, wishing you were in Northern Italy sipping your drink at a holiday resort.

— Liss Anda

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