Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Greece/Cyprus/France, 1999. Melanda Film Productions, Greek Film Center, Amanda Productions, Films de l’Astre, Canal+, Eurimages, Greek Television ET-1. Screenplay by Mihalis Kakogiannis, based on the play Vishnyovyy Sad by Anton Chekhov. Cinematography by Aris Stavrou. Produced by Mihalis Kakogiannis. Music by Dimitris Papadimitriou. Production Design by Dionysis Fotopoulos. Costume Design by Dionysis Fotopoulos. Film Editing by Takis Hadzis, Mihalis Kakogiannis.
Michael Cacoyannis directs this exquisitely shot adaptation of Chekhov’s play, starring Charlotte Rampling as a Russian aristocrat who fled home for Paris after the accidental death of her son and is now returning to her two daughters (Tushka Bergen, Katrin Cartlidge) and brother (Alan Bates) years later. Her estate has fallen on hard times, and her return coincides with the necessity of deciding what to do about it, mainly whether or not to sell the nationally acclaimed cherry orchard that makes their home as prized as it is. This story, which deals with themes of class, age, family and grief, is given classy treatment by the director, who keeps it from ever feeling stage bound in its plotting but not in its performances. Some of the actors are wonderfully natural, while others (including Rampling) can’t decide if they’re projecting for the back row or not. Cacoyannis never really gets a deep feeling out of it, but it is worth seeing for anyone who enjoys the author’s work. It’s a particular pleasure to see the late, great Cartlidge, whose life was cut short not long after this film’s release.