The world has grown wary of the costume drama since the heyday of Room with a View. To put bums of seats these days Stan Lee has to be involved at some level. Put a girl in a crinoline and a universal “meh” goes up. Even back in 1999 audiences weren’t flocking so readily. Which is a great pity because Onegin is an opulent delight. Directed by Martha Fiennes and featuring swathes of Fiennes siblings and in-laws in one capacity or another, it is worth a look because of its beautiful cinematography alone, and its obsessive attention to period detail. Most commendable of all, though, is its plot, based on a Pushkin poem, adapted intelligently by Peter Ettedgui and Michael Ignatieff, which is pursued right through to its logical, pitiless conclusion. There’s another Fiennes in the lead, Ralph, playing Onegin, a bored man about St Petersburg who inherits, moves to the country and starts playing boy-meets-girl with Tatyana (Liv Tyler). The couple never seem in danger of offering a credible threat to the permafrost but this barely matters, because the really big and worthwhile feature of this film is its exquisite languid pace. Never slow, incredibly magisterial, very rewarding. You simply won’t want it to stop.
© Steve Morrissey 2013