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3.1 out of 5 stars
The Kreutzer Sonata [DVD] [2008]
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This is a very good film, or should I say video since it is shot on video for that added true to life feeling. Based on Tolstoy's novella that was inspired by a performance of the sonata, the movie very sensibly puts the music at the centre of things, so that it is as much about the expressive power of music as it is jealousy and sexual obsession.

Danny Huston impresses as the intense and fixated Edgar, a man filled with long suppressed violence, both visually but especially through the narration which is key to the story's interest. Sometimes voice over is a bore but not here. Elisabeth Rohm is very sexy as Edgar's wife, the frustrated pianist who comes out of retirement for a benefit organised by Edgar and begins the partnership with Matthew Yang King's violinist that turns Edgar's anxiety over his wife's itchy feet into paranoia over her imminent adultery.

Video suits the novella, a character study without grand themes. The sex scenes are pretty raunchy though not really prolonged, the fiery exchanges between violin and piano being equally erotic. One can't help empathising with both husband and wife, but especially Edgar as he does his best to be the good, trusting, considerate husband and keep his fears locked away, but eventually finds his self control slipping away.

If it were up to me, maybe I would change some of the dialogue, including a tasteless remark referencing Jacqueline Du Pre, and possibly cast an actress who was less obviously sexy and more fascinating in terms of her character, her gaze. Russian women in literature are usually passionate, intense, spiritual, haughty creatures idolized by their men. I don't think Rohm quite has these elusive traits. It's also a little unbelieveable that Abi gets pregnant so clumsily, when surely a morning after pill would have fixed things (the perils of updating the story).

Well worth seeing. Sexy and dangerous. Time for me to finally read some Tolstoy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2010
"I like it" as a film rating is appropriate for a rom com, heist thriller, musical or feel-good love story. This is an altogether different proposition. Nothing "feel good" about this movie. It is a dark, grim exploration of marriage and shallow, improvised values which is, ironically adapted from a 19th century novel (confirming the view that there really is nothing new under the sun). I remember a similar viewing experience years ago seeing Mike Leigh's 'Naked' - brilliant, shocking, compelling and deeply uncomfortable because of the nihilism. If you want redemption and a happy ending, don't bother with this. If you want to think, be challenged and don't mind a trip to the dark side, see it.

Danny Huston plays a wealthy philanthropist in Beverley Hills, living a life he obviously abhors, where status is everything and what you have/are able to acquire determines what you are. One of his "acquisitions" includes a beautiful and gifted wife. The marriage and subsequent family life is accidental and the consequence of an illicit and explicitly shown affair. With voice over in the present, the film tells the story of this doomed union with a sublime Beethoven recital as its backdrop and emotional focus.

Danny Houston is an AMAZING actor. His menace combined with sexiness and that fabulous voice completely dominates the film. Cripes, you cannot take your EYES off this man on screen. Elizabeth Rohm is also wonderful - naturally beautiful with an authentic acting style and an innocence that makes the premise of the film and the ending we know is coming all the more unnerving. The documentary-style filming suits the naturalistic acting and is incredibly powerful because the content is SO shocking.

The one weak spot is the scene with Anjelica Houston. It seemed as if it was from a different film but that's one weak spot in an otherwise thought provoking and emotionally exhausting viewing experience.
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on 2 July 2015
It's very hard to care about these repulsive, selfish rich people who live to feed their own egos and are, essentially, empty inside. The fund raising charity event made me feel quite queasy and the guy who gave the speech probably summed up the world view of these people "you have a lovely home and a beautiful wife and that's why we all hate you." Even the one character we're supposed to feel empathy with, the "put upon wife" does not come over in a very sympathetic light. Obsessive jealousy and what drives it is always very hard to portray and needs an expert hand.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2011
**** ALTHOUGH ONE MAJOR PLOT SPOILER HAS BEEN REMOVED, LOADS OF SMALLER ONES MAY STILL REMAIN: PROCEED WITH CAUTION! ****

Just watched The Kreutzer Sonata (2008) ~ directed by Bernard Rose, the brilliant British director of such films as Candyman, Mr Nice and Ivans XTC. This is based on a Tolstoy novella, and part of a trilogy of Tolstoy tales by the director. It stars Danny Huston (son of the very well known John, one of the world's greatest directors and actors) and Elisabeth Röhm (daughter of the rather less well known Eberhard, the corporate attorney).The background to the movie: in 1888, Tolstoy (you know - the writer chap), Repin (no idea either, oh hang on - artist chap) and Andreyev-Burlak (haven't a clue - oh, an actor then!) listen to a performance of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata aka Sonata No.9 in A Major for piano and violin, and decide they should all create some work of art based around it. Tolstoy came up with the novella The Kreutzer Sonata. The other two sobered up and didn't. Tolstoy's novella scandalised civilised society and was banned for a bit. The other two felt bad. The story has been filmed more times than a violin player plucks his instrument, but this version updates the story to a modern setting, so instead of our main protagonist checking his wife's written-in-ink love letters, he checks her mobile phone. Instead of feeling sexy in an oak-carved double bed in a house in the country, he gets it on with himself on a motel bed watching rough internet porn. Although, thankfully, we see very little action here beyond a flash of the film he is watching and the unbuckling of his belt. Yes, this is still Tolstoy, I swear it! That's enough historical background, now, on to the film...

Big jealousy from Huston's world-weary and green-eyed character Edgar towards his dishy wife Abigail and a young hot musician chap called Aiden results in one slightly overlong meditation on being faithful and 'what to do' when temptation rears its ugly head. Or not so ugly head, as tempter (Aiden - the hot violin player) and temptee (Abigail - the hot piano player with a husband and family who hasn't, err, tickled the ivories in ages) are both insanely pretty. More so than old grump Edgar anyway! It all ends in horror for one of the key players in this possible love (or sex rather) triangle - after lots and lots of talk, contemplation and doing of rude things on the floor and on top of kitchen tables. Probably then, seeing as this film is obviously from the start going to end in something pretty bad happening to one or maybe all of this lot - the film becomes (like Tolstoy intended) more a 'what not to do' guide to times when temptation rears its ugly head; a cautionary tale, rather than a 'what to do'. Except for all the sex on the floor and on kitchen tables with your husband bit, which is permitted by Tolstoy. Just don't do it with someone else you fancy as well... or let the person you 'might do it with' leave messages on your phone to discuss it further. Hubby always reads those kind of texts you know!The naughtiness quota in this movie is high, but it had to be - it kind of made the film less 'naval-gazing' and more 'sweaty limbs indulging in sexual intercourse-gazing' every so often, which kind of wakes you up for more contemplation to come - breaks up all that endless talking and fretting and checking up on his wife by Danny Huston's character Edgar. Because, to its cost, The Kreutzer Sonata is a movie featuring too much pacing of corridors by an older man worried about his younger - and frankly far more attractive than he is - wife, and what she gets up to on music practice nights. Or what she doesn't get up to. You have to wait until the end to find out. Let's just say, I'm not as paranoid as Edgar is about his wife and the chances of her cheating on him. But with a husband like Edgar - I wouldn't blame her either. But the ending is worth the wait. Tense and unsettling; upsetting too.

You'll either love The Kreutzer Sonata's stark, explicit and often uncomfortable honesty - or hate its long, talky, body-party, classical music-scored pretentiousness. I guess it depends on what mood you are in when you watch it. That could - could - be the sign of a really great movie. I could also say that at least the film is never boring. But sometimes it is. The not boring bits make this a movie that deserves acclaim. Even the boring bits have a purpose. To reflect the boredom of being alone and wondering what someone else is doing somewhere else, not on their own. Röhm is brilliant as Abigail: frustrated, relaxed; gorgeous; sexy; tempting; angry; mundane; inspiring; bored - much like any real person in real life depending on how they feel that day. Or how many cups of coffee and glasses of wine they've had. Actually I was going to include 'plain' in that list of words to describe Abigail. But I had to delete it - she's a lot of things, but not plain, even when she wants to be - which Edgar himself alludes to in the film and worries him the most (calm down dear - she's only going to travel the world alone to get a sense of perspective). Abigail has that air of attraction pulsing through her, around her, all the time. Maybe without knowing it. Or maybe fully aware. Even Edgar doesn't quite know - but that air of mystery is the most dangerous appeal of Abigail of all. Huston as the suspicious and slightly annoying Edgar carries off the 'lucky old me living here with a girl like that, but for how much longer?' look with lightly-wrinkled relish, and looks like he's been here before - in this dark, deep, green-eyed pit of jealousy; maybe once stabbed (metaphorically - don't panic!) in the back by a girl needing more than the odd bonk on the sofa while she is trying to talk to her agent on the phone, such are the pleasures that Edgar inflicts on Abigail in the film (in an especially erotic moment that ends in panic of pregnancy, not a post-coital cigarette). If he hasn't been to that place before, then Danny Huston's an even better actor than I thought. And I already think he's really good! Thankfully, after an hour and a half of sex and babies and jealousy and concertos, not to mention uncomfortable - to men, mostly, I'm guessing - checking of your partner's mobile phone to check all 'is well' (enough already Edgar!), it all ends in Candyman-esque spurts of blood. Hooray! But I won't tell you whose.

Candyman was perhaps one of the most elegiac, poetic visions of urban horror ever seen in the movies. The film probably outclassed the novella it was based on. And that's from a committed Clive Barker fan. But The Kreutzner Sonata, I think, thinks it's cleverer than it probably is. Jealousy is a fact of the human condition. Without it we die with nothing to fight for. But too much analysing kind of spoils the beauty of the human condition. This is a film you probably should see, as it may mean something to you, it may cause you to think 'oh yeah - I know that feeling' - but to be honest, I get 'that feeling' every time I watch an episode of Fawlty Towers too.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2010
Danny Huston seemed to appear out of nowhere when he starred in Ivansxtc, Bernard Rose's adaptation of Tolstoy's The Death Of Ivan Ilyich. That extraordinary smile which has been described as shark-like and the rich voice which seems to sound more and more like his father's were suited perfectly to the despicable character of Hollywood agent Ivan Beckman. Much was made of the resistance by some in Hollywood to see a film that depicted the darker side of the industry to be made first of all, and secondly to be distributed once it had been shot. There's no such thing as bad publicity of course and it helped to draw attention to the film which made a virtue of its low budget digital video camera work and used a classical score to excellent effect. Rose intends to make a trilogy of Tolstoy adaptations, of which this is the second part; again starring Danny Huston, again using that handheld digital video look and naturally making excellent use of classical music.

I finished reading the novella on which it is based just an hour or so before watching the film so it was with some ease that I could recognise some of the lines that Rose had lifted from the book, what parts he had decided to discard and what to keep. In Tolstoy's novella the story is related by its hero, Pozdnyshev, to our narrator as they share a train journey. In adapting it into a film Rose has to rely heavily on voice over to relate the views and opinions of his own hero Edgar. Voice over is one of those things that critics get very sniffy about, and it's certainly a pain when it's lazy or unnecessary, but I'm not sure how else Rose could have got across Edgar's many views and theories about modern life without using it. Perhaps it might have been improved slightly if it had been set up early on that the voice over we were listening to was in fact a conversation between Edgar and someone else. Edgar is a man from a similar social strata to Beckman but with a far more beneficent outlook, helping to run a foundation set up by his family which provides funding for work in the sciences. We see him meet his future wife at a party when she is currently dating someone else and so their own relationship is born of infidelity and possessiveness. The arrival of children is unplanned and the impact of that is for Elisabeth Rohm's wife to give up her career as a classical pianist. So the film clearly follows the book's themes of marriage as enslavement, sex as dangerous, and children as a curse and burden. Over the films length we see the relationship from its very beginning to its bloody end with the slow decay in between.

The book is divided roughly into two sections. The first where Pozdnyshev holds forth with his wisdom from experience about marriage, human relations and the truth of the world as he sees it, and the second where he tells the story of his own descent into jealousy, torment and finally murderous rage. The book is weighted just slightly in favour of the former, the film naturally is all about the latter with the voice over providing snippets of Edgar's wisdom. The central event to both is the duet of wife and violinist on Beethoven's Violin sonata no.9. It is Edgar who organises the charity benefit during which the piece will be played, Edgar who chooses Aiden, the violinist, and Edgar who chooses to introduce him to his wife, determined to prove himself the perfect husband by allowing his wife to regain some of that freedom and individuality lost by becoming a wife and mother. Aiden recounts the history of the piece of music, originally dedicated to George Bridgetower, the dedication changed when Bridgetower apparently 'besmirched' the morals of women Beethoven cherished (Aiden's own theory being that Bridgetower had slept with one of Beethoven's ex's) and finally bearing the name of Rodolphe Kreutzer, who considered the piece unplayable and in fact never played it himself. So the music itself is possibly tainted with the stain of immorality but for Edgar it is a very personal experience. A man who doesn't see the point of classical music at all becomes obsessed with this one piece, the music going round and round in his head, as the constant presence of Aiden in their house practising begins to build up the pressure, feeding that green shoot of jealousy until it is all Edgar can think about.

Rose's editing and use of the music itself is brilliant, helping to create the fever of jealousy, the irrationality of Edgar's thoughts, his animalistic urges, the subtle shift from sexual passion to violent possession to murderous rage. There is something however that makes the film slightly less impressive than Ivansxtc, something hard to pin down. Some of the improvised dialogue falls very flat (and in one truly bizarre moment Edgar's daughter walks in on her mother practising at the piano and says 'You're not doing it for real' - presumably because the actress isn't doing it for real (the piano parts played by a professional musician) but its inclusion in the final edit suddenly draws attention somewhere it shouldn't be), the film feels a bit long even though it is only 99 mins (perhaps due to some of the improvised meandering), the digital camera work has fewer moments where it can assert itself stylistically and there were even times when I wanted Huston to ramp it up just a notch. Rohm is fantastic as his wife, particularly in an exposed role which demands she spend much of it naked and engaged in vigorous sex with her husband. She exudes a natural beauty and openness on which Edgar can project his lurid fantasies and paranoias. However, given that you can read the book in roughly the same time it takes to watch the film, you don't need me to tell you which would be the better use of your time.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2012
This film puts a novella by Tolstoy into a contemporary American setting, adds explicit sex and violence, builds on the obsession angle and has a violent ending, which in my view is not sufficiently led up to.
One gets the impression that the use of the Tolstoy background was an attempt to lift it out of the ordinary violence-with-porn genre. My view is that it doesn't work, at any level of aspiration.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2010
This is a very good film, or should I say video since it is shot on video for that added true to life feeling. Based on Tolstoy's novella that was inspired by a performance of the sonata, the movie very sensibly puts the music at the centre of things, so that it is as much about the expressive power of music as it is jealousy and sexual obsession.

Danny Huston impresses as the intense and fixated Edgar, a man filled with long suppressed violence, both visually but especially through the narration which is key to the story's interest. Sometimes voice over is a bore but not here. Elisabeth Rohm is very sexy as Edgar's wife, the frustrated pianist who comes out of retirement for a benefit organised by Edgar and begins the partnership with Matthew Yang King's violinist that turns Edgar's anxiety over his wife's itchy feet into paranoia over her imminent adultery.

Video suits the novella, a character study without grand themes. The sex scenes are pretty raunchy though not really prolonged, the fiery exchanges between violin and piano being equally erotic. One can't help empathising with both husband and wife, but especially Edgar as he does his best to be the good, trusting, considerate husband and keep his fears locked away, but eventually finds his self control slipping away.

If it were up to me, maybe I would change some of the dialogue, including a tasteless remark referencing Jacqueline Du Pre, and possibly cast an actress who was less obviously sexy and more fascinating in terms of her character, her gaze. Russian women in literature are usually passionate, intense, spiritual, haughty creatures idolized by their men. I don't think Rohm quite has these elusive traits. It's also a little unbelieveable that Abi gets pregnant so clumsily, when surely a morning after pill would have fixed things (the perils of updating the story).

Well worth seeing. Sexy and dangerous. Time for me to finally read some Tolstoy.
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on 30 May 2015
Pretentious pointless crap! Carry on.
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on 20 December 2013
GOOD FILM
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on 8 September 2014
great
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