Judge Brett Cullum likes theatre with his Russians sad and his actors English.
Eighteen hours of British actors playing unhappy Russians, and an in-depth look at one of the world's greatest authors.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is known as a legend of the short story and a master playwright. He was born in 1860 and grew up to be a revered author who established Russian theatre and redefined how plays work. Chekhov used his theatrical works to examine characters rather than propel plots, and he is known as an "actor's writer" for providing deep personal studies of men and women that informed audiences about the pain of the human condition. He was fond of farces, but his legacy on the stage revolves around his elaborate tragedies such as The Seagull, The Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard. Chekhov's world is a bleak one where yearning leads to disappointment, and love is often the most destructive force one can engage in. He attempted to capture the unhappiness of the Russian people at the turn of the century, and somehow managed to create portraits of tortured souls that resonated with the rest of the world.
The author himself probably best described his work in the following famous quote:
"All I wanted was to say honestly to people: 'Have a look at yourselves and see how bad and dreary your lives are!' The important thing is that people should realize that, for when they do, they will most certainly create another and better life for themselves. I will not live to see it, but I know that it will be quite different, quite unlike our present life. And so long as this different life does not exist, I shall go on saying to people again and again: 'Please, understand that your life is bad and dreary!'"
The Anton Chekhov Collection from BBC Video is a six disc set that mines their extensive archives of works created by British master thespians performing the greatest works of the Russian playwright's career. From 1959 to 1991, these plays are presented with excellent production values and sure-handed direction. The transfers are full screen and sometimes spotty in quality, but it is amazing to see these legendary pieces performed by the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench. The result is over eighteen hours of sublime theatre loaded down with significant extras and supplemental material.
This is an exhausting collection of some of the richest text provided for BBC productions. Each play is well performed, and the entire set is a joy to have for anybody who is a fan of or would like to get to know Anton Chekhov. The transfers vary wildly, and not much has been done to them to make them look better. But considering the talent on display, this becomes a minimal gripe. Extras are nice supplements including audio and video further examinations of Chekhov's short stories and productions. This is a theatre lover's dream come true—a parade of morose Russians speaking with clipped British accents. Eighteen hours of the best Chekhov interpretations you will ever see on television is irresistible.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Omnibus: Pennington on Chekhov
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