The Cherry Orchard is an ensemble piece about a country estate with a famous cherry orchard that is the pride of the province.
It is 1900 in Russia and amid the turmoil of social and political revolution, the family and servants at this little corner of the world are caught in a time warp. It is still Imperial Russia with all the privileges for the wealthy and landed gentry. Time goes by, life goes by, wealth disappears, but these people can't be bothered to notice.
Charlotte Rampling ("The Statement" 2003) is Madame Ranevskaya who returns, with her daughter, from exile in Paris to her estate to be with her lazy brother (Alan Bates, "Gosford Park"), her adopted daughter, and various servants, friends and freed peasants. Like the large old house, their way of life is rotting away. They are broke and the only thing that will save them from poverty is to sell the land, house and orchard to developers. But the are so besotted with the old life they cannot arouse themselves to make a decision on what to do. And of course, they lose it all.
The commentary throughout in the form of asides, laughter and outright contempt, is in the character of the servant Yasha (Gerard Butler,"Dear Frankie"). He serves Madam R, but he gossips about her profligate ways, has contempt for many in the family and takes advantage of the privileges they provide him, including a romp in the orchard with one of the housemaids (Melanie Lynskey,"Shooters"), who he then lectures on her immoral ways. It is a small part, but acts like a Greek chorus to comment on the others.
In the end, the doddering valet of Bates is left alone, locked into this decaying house, two old relics forgotten by the aristocrats and the new bourgeoisie. He says to himself "my life has gone by as though I have never lived. No strings - nothing." He leans back in the chair and dies. These people are so careless that no one makes sure the old man has really been taken to a hospital, although they all talk about it, and Yasha keeps assuring everyone he 'knows' he was picked up. So they all just ride off in their carriages and the woodsmen move into
the orchard and begin chopping down the cherry trees.
The beauty of the cinematography, costumes and piano score of Tchaikovsky music set a mood that is languid and only for those who relish the type of multi-character stories like the recent "Gosford Park." I loved it. 9/10