In 19th century Russia, an aristocrat, Lavretsky, returns to his estate after staying in Paris over a long period. Upon meeting Lisa, during a visit to his neighbors, he becomes infatuated by the young woman and would like to erase his past.
Freely adapted from Ivan Turgenev’s book, A Nest of Gentry marks a departure for Andrei Konchalovsky from his first two features. The material of origin (a book) makes it more classic in its form and it is also his first color film, a costume drama praised for its visual beauty but attacked by soviet critics as mannered. However, the film displays, even in introducing a completely different social class than the one portrayed in his own Story of Asya Klyachina… (1966), the same love for the native land by characters deeply rooted to their birth place no matter what the emotional costs are.
It is not primarily the story, but rather the way Konchalovsky and faithful cinematographer Georgy Rerberg tell it that makes it captivating. Through Rerberg’s lens, the color palette (a visual feast) and Konchalovsky’s compositions, often focusing on details, background and secondary actions, schemes of colors are carefully re-introduced in some form of continuity, altogether playing like a poem. The way the camera explores the abandoned house in the opening, telling the family story through belongings, furniture and paintings is lyrical and eloquent and announces what we are in for.
A Nest of Gentry‘s classic approach clearly paves the way to Konchalovsky’s next film, an adaptation of another classic, Tchekov’s Dyadya Vanya, but his vision is still as fresh and vivid, (though taking a different path) as in his earlier works.
*** A Nest of Gentry is part of the Andrei Konchalovsky 5 films Retrospective running from October 16-22 at Montreal Cinémathèque Québécoise.