The Kreutzer Sonata
Danny Huston, Elisabeth Röhm, Matthew Yang King, Anjelica Huston / Fiction / English
Sexual jealousy set to Beethoven: an erotic and emotional tour-de-force.
?The 1889 Leo Tolstoy story on which this film is based was the product of a performance of Beethoven’s Opus 47 for Piano and Violin – known as The Kreutzer Sonata – at the writer‘s Moscow home. He and his guests, the painter Ilya Repin and the actor V Andreyev-Burlak, discussed collaborating on a multi-disciplinary response to the music: Tolstoy would write a story, Andreyev-Burlak would perform it, and Repin would illustrate it. Only Tolstoy’s part of the deal was completed, however, and Andreyev-Burlak died soon after. The story is an analysis of the meaning of marital fidelity, with a protagonist who becomes violently possessive of his pianist wife as she works on a performance of The Kreutzer Sonata with a virile young violinist. Bernard Rose here works for the third time from Tolstoy material, after Anna Karenina (1997) and Ivansxtc (2000). Like Ivansxtc, The Kreutzer Sonata updates and shifts the narrative to contemporary LA, and centres on a moneyed but unfulfilled character played by Danny Huston. The trappings of wealth have not brought Edgar much happiness: his days are taken up with the responsible management of the family coffers, and his first marriage is over. Acquiring a gorgeous, independent, accomplished second wife (Elisabeth Röhm) seems a reasonable plan; but her very desirability proves a further torment... Acute in its portrayal of the states of infatuation and paranoia, and challenging in its analysis of the moral responsibilities attached to privilege, The Kreutzer Sonata is a mature, complex emotional drama. It’s also sexually frank, and unselfconscious about its context of cultured and educated individuals – both happy contrasts with that pinched, judgemental strain of indie Americana (The Savages; Margot at the Wedding; Smart People) which can neither stomach sex as anything but dysfunction, nor let an intelligent reference pass without a fit of self-deprecating giggles indicating the pointlessness of the book-learned elite.
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