Неоконченная пьеса для механического пианино (1976)

Thank you Michael Pennington for recommending Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano as the “best Chekhov you could hope to see [on film], though it is not by Chekhov at all.” [Are You There, Crocodile: Inventing Chekhov, op. cit., pp. 80-1]

Режиссер: Никита Михалков

В ролях: Александр Калягин, Елена Соловей, Евгения Глушенко, Юрий Богатырев, Олег Табаков, Никита Михалков

Nikita Michalkov’s brilliant production takes Chekhov’s Platonov (better known to English-speaking audiences from Michael Frayn’s 1984 adaptation and abridgment of the play as Wild Honey) to be its jumping-off point. But having landed us in the doubly enchanted and disenchanted world of Chekhov’s pre-revolutionary characters, we find Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, scenes from the stories, integrated into what is as much a musical as a cinematic composition.

Michael Pennington tells us that these actors are clearly at home with the material. The performances are exceptional, each of them, for inhabiting a Chekhovian infratext, a world apart, and ensemble, together, for both their crashing crescendos and their crushing diminuendos.

What particularly strikes me is that although I may not know or recognise the characters and although they are constantly suprising, I know and recognise their realisms, their behaviours, as less true to type than true to people in particular. They have passions. They contradict themselves. They have irrational outbursts and outbursts that are all too rational and motivated. They can’t go on. And they do. They do go on.

I happened to see an American review, Amazon, I think, which said, unlike in American drama, it’s not the plot driving things forward, but the characters. There is a plot here. However, it’s fractured, broken by unexpected noises, snatches of music, quotes, while all quotes might be music. And while this music is unmotivated and incidental, it is always eventful. These are events and characters caught up in a music which is of their making but also most definitely not.

The film quotes Chekhov as music and like a piece for mechanical piano, unfinished, but also circular.