Ivan Turgenev’s classic novel is brought to life with luscious cinematography and set design in Andrei Konchalovsky’s third feature A Nest of Gentlefolk. Disenchanted with the superficial glitter of Parisian society and with his frivolous wife, Fyodor Lavretsky returns to his long neglected estate in Russia in the decadent days of the aristocracy shortly before the Revolution. He reflects on his past, sorting through rooms full of dusty ornaments and memorabilia and falls unrequitedly in love with his neighbour’s daughter.
It was 1967, and they were showing Visconti’s film The Leopard in a Moscow festival. Andrei Konchalovsky suddenly had the urge to film something beautiful, colourful, with big butterflies and hats. Like a novel by Turgenev. At the time Konchalovsky was known for being the director of the banned film Asya’s Happiness, so when he was called in by the State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino) and asked if he would like to make a screen adaptation of a classic it was a miracle. And that’s where the idea of filming A Nest of Gentlefolk was born. After he’d said yes, Konchalovsky read the novel and was terrified. It was filled with sentimental language, romantic landscapes and idealised heroes. He decided to read all of Turgenev’s work, to give the film a Turgenev feel, to fill it with the writer’s images of nature that he had compiled after visiting dozens of villages on foot. The director wanted to bring two styles into one picture: the beautiful world of flowers, sentimentality and luxury and the poor and sombre villages; the large gap between the lord and the peasant. And it is in this abyss that Russia’s fate originated.
Recommended rating: Cert PG.