17 February 2006 | gradyharp
Anton Chekhov's play 'Uncle Vanya' has been re-written and transplanted to turn of the century South Wales in this production, which is directed by Anthony Hopkins. For all of the many translations and rebirths of this 'comedy' by the great Chekhov, this one seems to work best. There really is very little linear storyline, but it is filled with the author's recurring themes of unfulfilled dreams, boredom, longing for an elusive future.
The plot (!) is really a discourse among the players: Ieuan Davies (Anthony Hopkins) is a bored older man who spends his days drinking and talking with his small family and servants on the country estate owned by Professor Alexander Blathwaite (Leslie Phillips) who comes for a stay with his beautiful wife Helen (Kate Burton) for whom Davies lusts and pines. A doctor (Gawn Grainger) visits, stirs discontent while mixing in family gossip and caring for the victim of a mine explosion. The bulk of the dialogue is centered on some fine expositions about women's rights, class inequality, and Davies' boredom with life, his aborted chances on having a significant life, and his longing for a future that seems as elusive as the summer breeze that fans the tea garden in this wistful, atmospheric setting.
To enjoy 'August' the viewer must be in the mood for conversation, wit, banter, and ensemble acting, and given those prerequisites, this film is a joy. Hopkins gives a magnificent performance, loathable and lovable, and the entire cast is so polished that the play becomes chamber music. Hopkins not only stars but also directs (not always successfully attending to the small details of action), and also provides the musical score - no mean feat! Not a film of action this, but rather a summer reverie piqued by subtle comedy. Grady Harp