08 February 2012

Vanya research

I'm taking another acting class, which is already much better than the last one. I'm currently working on a scene from Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. In the scene, Astrov, the part I play, tries to persuade Vanya to return a jar of morphine that he stole, presumably with the intention of killing himself. I decided to do a little scrounging around on YouTube.

The results show just how differently the same scene can be interpreted. It never really is the same play.

Uncle Vanya -- Russian movie version, 1986
The scene starts around 2:28
This is a classic, straightforward interpretation.

Andrei Konchalovsky, Tarkovsky's former collaborator who's directed some good movies in Hollywood as well as Russia, recently mounted a production that seriously stretches the conventions of Chekhov, bringing farcical and tragicomic elements forward.

Here's an interview with him, which gives even non-Russian speakers a colorful overview of his take on the play.

Close by were a couple of pretty raw clips of Konchalovsky directing this production. He's direct and pointed with his actors, perhaps even merciless. He's also very precise about the movements and gestures of the players. Clearly, every detail matters. What impressed me -- the way he has his Astrov wipe his boots as he enters the "house" -- just the sort of realism in the midst of the fantasy of the set that makes it vivid to an audience. It brings home the given circumstances -- the muddy yard of a provincial farm -- home in an unfussy, direct and yet beautiful way.

Another time he instructs the actor playing the Professor to not just pick up the apple, but to smell it -- to inhale its scent. The guy asks why. The director responds, so the audience can smell it.

Konchalovsky in rehearsal part 1


 part 2


 Maly Theatre of St. Petersburg -- opening scene with Astrov and Marina. This comes close to how I'd initially imagined a staging of the play. The actors are very good. But I wonder if the classic approach isn't maybe too expected? It makes me wonder: how many straightforward, faithful interpretations of a play does the world need? One per generation?

Still, this Astrov is impeccable.


 Later scene from same production, still Act 1


 Vanya on 42nd Street -- Astrov and Elena
I think this movie's overrated and not at all the definitive version. I object to Mamet's adaptation, which is thoroughly streamlined, and so, completely misses the point of Chekhov. The acting's American, nice and lean and simple, but the whole thing occupies some realm that doesn't quite honor the original text and doesn't really make it to the level of an intelligent re-visioning of the work. It's not horrible, just not as good as you'd think it would be, given the team behind it.

  BBC TV version, 1970 with Anthony Hopkins as Astrov
The scene starts at 1:40:57.
More classicism with great skill -- but, again, are these people Russian? Plus, it suffers from the bell jar quality that plays staged for TV always have -- like butterflies you trap in a jar. Plus, Hopkins is really too young to convey that resigned yet desperately middle-aged character of the good doctor, Astrov.


No comments:

Post a Comment