Thursday, June 04, 2015

"The Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov, BBC version from 1970


Netflix offers a DVD of the 1970 BBC performance of “The Three Sisters” by Anton Chehkov, directed by Cedric Messina.  This was from the BBC Play of the Month, Season 5, Episode 4.
     
Olga (Eileen Atkins), Masha (Janet Suzman), and Irina (Michele Dotrice) have been compelled to leave Moscow for the countryside, and share their father’s home with brother Andrei (Anthony Hopkins). Andrei’s marriage to a questionable woman seem to dash their hopes for a better life.
  
The play contains a lot of references to the expectation of war and coming revolution, which I did not think was that well recognized in 1900. 
  
The play has a lot of “inevitable epigrams” about individual purpose. One of the best is “There isn’t going to be any happiness in our generation. All the happiness is reserved for your descendants.”

There is another scene where one of the sisters is told she should consider marrying an older man, and that it is wrong to marry for love or looks (or, in a modern sense, base a relationship on "sexual attractiveness -- I recall those therapeutic discussions in NYC from the 1970s).  In their culture, you needed to "have" a marriage, which made many moral questions two-way streets.
     
There are references to “low ideals”.  Andrei later says, if he had life to live over, he wouldn’t marry. After tragedy, the sisters sit on the porch, with a sunset behind them, and say they just go on living.
  
  
The (London) stagecraft, of the home and its interiors, is quite elaborate. 
  
The music is simple, with some piano music of Tchaikovsky played occasionally. Note: the title of the play is often listed without a definite article ("Three Sisters").  Watch the spelling of the playwright's name, it has an extra "h".  The author was also a physician, but he died of tuberculosis at 44 in 1904. 
  
The version runs 130 minutes, not as long as some others. 

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