The Cherry Orchard

With their heightened drama and stylized, symbolic characters, Chekhov's plays are hard to produce onstage and even harder to adapt for film. In this version of Chekhov's last play, director Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba the Greek), who also wrote the screen adaptation, can't decide whether to emphasize the theatricality of the dialogue or make it more realistic and intimate. The result is very strange, with some fine actors (Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates) giving extremely mannered performances, wandering from room to room declaiming their lines as if they were playing to the back row of a huge theater. At times this seems a profound interpretive choice—with Chekhov's doomed aristocrats and smirking servants presenting highly dramatized personas to one another—but it alienates the viewer to no purpose. We're never allowed to feel much of anything for these characters, and as a result their agonizing over their lost past and uncertain future seems like whining. 141 min.

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