Syuzhet dlya nebolshogo rasskaza (1969) - full transcript

"Mosfilm"- the U.S.S.R.
"Luch" Creative Unit

and "Telcia film" - FRANCE


Written by Leonid Malyugin

Directed by Sergei Yutkevich

Director of Photography
Naum Ardashnikov

Production Designer
A. Vaysfeld

Music composed and played on the piano
by Rodion Shchedrin

Please meet...

Pavel Chekhov:
actor Lebedev

Yevgenia Chekhova:
actress Panova

Alexander Chekhov:
actor Bykov

Maria Chekhova:
actress Savina

Anton Chekhov:
actor Grinko

Lika Mizinova:
actress Marina Vlady

Ignaty Potapenko:
actor Yakovlev

actor Gallis

actor Osenev

Painter Ovchinnikova:
actress Vasilyeva

Merchant Grivov:
actor Kulagin

Father Gerasim:
actor Shutov

actor Avdyushko

actor Tusuzov

"Why is it obligatory for us
to stage scenes

that provoke laughter or tears?

Why can't we just show
intelligent people and everyday life,

to induce reflection or
dissection of everyday events?"

A. Chekhov (from the memoirs of
L. Yavorskaya "News" Aug. 31, 1904)


How was the rehearsal?

I don't know: the actors
still flub their lines...

Don't worry, my poor Anton,
everything will be great.

Did you get the tickets?
- I couldn't get to the box office.

You're odd!
You should've announced:

"I need Mr. Chekhov's box!"
They would've made way for you.

- I can't do that.
- Don't worry, I'll try it myself.

I'm a different Chekhov,
I can do it.

Fancy that!

A newspaper scribbler turned out
to be a genius!

And the genius turned out
to be a scribbler!

Don't worry, I'll make money
on your "Seagull", 10 rubles at least.

- Let's go.
- Wait...

- Where do I make a dinner reservation?
- Where's the cheapest.

Dear sister, the cheapest
is in a tavern,

but you can't bring actors
of the Imperial Theatre there.

At Cubat's or at Palkin's?
- Which one's more chic?

- Cubat's, but it's more expensive.
- Then Cubat's it is.

To the Nicholayevsky Station. Quick!
- See you tonight!

Practice your bows in front
of a mirror!

Train N 2 is 15 minutes late.

Are you nervous?

- Is it so obvious?
- It's hard to tell with you!

I wish I had your restraint...
I couldn't sleep all night.

Do you think my "Seagull"
will come down with a crash?

I'm not worried about "The Seagull",
I'm thinking of Lika.

How long has it been since?

Do you recall how I introduced
you to her?

Then you weren't so eager...

We have a new singing teacher
at school.

Do you want to meet her?
- Is she pretty?

Very pretty!
She has an amazing name: Lika.

I'm wary of pretty women. Beauty's
so rarely matched by intellect.

You'll be late for your lessons.
- Trying to get rid of me?

What are you writing?
- A short story.

That again! When will you
write a novel as promised?

Only wealthy people
can afford to write novels.

If I could get rich, I'd write
an amazing novel for you!

You'll be late!

I almost forgot... I saw
Ms. Ovchinnikova yesterday...

She asked you to stop by,
she's unwell. - Uh-huh.

Should I bring Lika along?

Bring whomever you want,
just leave me alone.

Anton! Firewood's been delivered.

Ask Dad, he's a better expert in it.

He's praying.

They'll have to wait then.

Anton! I only have 50 copecks left

for everything: the food and comfort.

Ask them to come later,
I'll try to get some money.

Then how do I pay the grocer?

Ask him for a credit.

I'm ashamed to ask for a credit.

I'm not just anybody's mother,
your name's well known.

And he asked you to stop by,
he's unwell, but you didn't come.

He's got an incurable disease:

Anton! It's for you,

from Active State Councillor Kurbatov

of St. Petersburg.

"I'm staying at "Slavyansky Bazar"
and I'm not feeling well."

He's asking you to come over.

That's it! Now there'll be enough
for the comfort and everything else.

Active State Councillor...

- Where can I wash my hands?
- You want to examine me? For what?

I'm probably neurasthenic
like you.

It's useless to fight it, it's
a disease of the century.

- Then why did you invite me?
- I've got a secret disease.

They're unaware of it
in St. Petersburg.

I hold a prominent social position.

Medical confidentiality
applies to all classes.

It's a different kind of
confidentiality. Please, sit down.

I'm writing a play.

I was considering my options,
and decided to go with you.

Forgive my little ruse.

I'm very flattered
by your confidence.

- Then let's proceed.
- Yes.

"The Edge of the Abyss."
Drama in 5 acts.

The cast of characters:

Count Polatov: a tall, imposing
looking civil servant;

Mademoiselle de la Belle,
a pretty blonde;

Prince Okrysin: the count's distant
cousin, quite Asiatic-looking;

Pyotr Lomsky:

very handsome, looks more like
an actor than a civil servant.

Act 1.

The drawing room in the Count's house.

There's a vase on the mantelpiece,
among other things.

Scene 1.

Enter Lomsky and Mlle de la Belle.

Okrysin, surprised and timidly
approaching De la Belle:

May I ask to kiss your hand?

De la Belle, haughtily:
Don't feel like lifting my hand.

Okrysin: Your foot then.
De la Belle: Yes, you may.

Okrysin bends and kisses the
tip of de la Belle's shoe.

Lomsky, with a grin:
I don't mean to interfere

with your private affair, but it's not
very pleasant to be left out in the cold

and gaze at your caresses!

- Goodbye.
- Bye.

Good girls. - If you heard them
singing: "Take away my sorrow..."

- Come to our place!
- I need to change.

"You look good in anything, dear..."

The curtain falls!


What do you say,
Anton Pavlovich?

Your play's no worse
than many others...

but unfortunately,
it's no better either.

It doesn't befit
your social position.

I appreciate your tactfulness.

- But I didn't treat you.
- It's for your time.

I don't charge
for literary advice.

Sorry for keeping you.
Pleased to have met you.

Hey! Stop!

Stop! Anton! Come with us!
There's a fire.

4 houses are burning in Khamovniki.
I got to write 200 lines.

I'm paid 5 copecks
per line now.

Let's go!
- Why should I?

For impressions.
You can use them in a story.

Come on! - No, Gil,
I'm going to a patient.

- Let's go.
- Go ahead!

- You need fasting, not treatment.
- I fast when I should.

One can gorge on
lean food as well.

You need to diet.
- Diet?

Then what to live for?

Tell me...

Do they pay less
for funny stories?

- Why do you think that?
- Then why you stopped writing them?

When you signed as "Chekhonte"
we always read you.

My clerks and I.

Unlike your latest thing
called "A Dreary Story".

Who'd wanna read this?

I'll pay you in groceries.

Don't you think this cloud
is a bit too loud?

- No, I don't think so.

Nice, very nice.
- You like it?

Sometimes I find my paintings...


On to prosaic matters.

What's troubling you?
- Life.

Doesn't it seem meaningless
to you?

I don't have time
to think about it.

Any physical ailments?

Don't we have more interesting things
to discuss?

Do you have moments when
you don't feel like writing?

It happens.

Pardon my indiscretion,
may I ask as a doctor:

why don't you have children?

"A white cat gone missing.
The finder will get 5 rubles."

You can buy a cow
for that amount!

"A black stallion for sale.

With a certificate."

I wonder how much is for the stallion?
- Why do you care?

Reading all sorts of nonsense.
Read something truly interesting.

A newspaper should be read in order.

As it was meant to be:
to educate the minds!

I've decided to give you a gift.

You liked this picture.
Take it, it's yours.

I can't accept
such an expensive gift...

If you refuse
I'll be deeply offended.

You're putting me
in an awkward position.

I can't pay you for the visits,
doesn't seem right. We're both artists.

Then how can I thank you?

Only through art.

"Chekhov's book is a sad...

... sad and tragic spectacle
of a young talent's suicide...

... a young talent's suicide,

he is dying a slow death
in the newspaper realm.

Like all newspaper writers,
he is destined

to turn into a squeezed lemon.

And he will die in oblivion
in the gutter."

- Bon appetit!
- What is it?

Ovchinnikova's latest masterpiece.

Women turn to art when they're
unlucky in their personal life.

- Anton! - It all goes away
with a first childbirth.


- Hide it! Maybe he won't ask.
- He'll ask.

Now let's get acquainted.
Dr. Chekhov.

Why are you so gloomy?

I get it, you're tired of waiting
and you're starving.

Don't take away the paper!
- It'll still be there.

You love to use recent newspapers
for wrapping.

What's in the paper?

- A white cat gone missing.
- How awful!

Imagine the owners' distress.

Well! Shall we get started?

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name...

Be seated.

For you, Anton, by courier.

- What happened?
- Gil got burned in a fire.

Eat first, then go.

A burn is a serious thing,
every minute counts.

Will you wait for me? Otherwise
I'll never know what your voice's like.



He's here!


Salute to the front!


He came, he came,
dear Anton Pavlovich!

He came, he came,

dear Anton Pavlovich!

I'm very glad you don't need
my medical care...

Drink up!

But it's not one of
your best jokes, Gil.


Do you think I did it all
for myself?

It's for you!

We can't leave you without company
on a day like this!

We can't let you be alone
on a day like this!

What's so special about today?

- You didn't read "Moscow News"?
- I didn't.

Then don't read it!

- Want me to punch him
in the face? - Who?

Take your pick:

the reviewer or the editor...

But you said yourself
that critics are like horse-flies

which hinder the horse in
its plowing of the soil.

Come on, Anton, forget it!
All together now!

He came, he came,
dear Anton Pavlovich!


Give me the paper and
let me go.


Died in the gutter in 1889.

- How's Gil?
- Healthy as a horse.

- Lika didn't wait for you.
- Prudent of her.

Did you eat at Gil's?

- Not hungry. Got any vodka?
- No. But you were right.

Mom was lighting up the furnace,
and picked up that newspaper...

Nothing interesting in there anyway.
- Yes, there was.

Don't get upset. There are
many jealous people out there.


Sorry, Masha,
I'd like to be alone.

You think I wasn't sick
reading that paper?

I can't believe it:
"he'll die in the gutter"!

How would I look
at my colleagues,

let alone my boss?

We have a clear case
in front of us...

Your brother Alexander began
writing even before you.

What's the use?

He drowned it all in drink.

Never mind him, he doesn't know
any other trade...

He'll have to bear his cross
till the end of his life.

But you're a doctor!
A venerable occupation!

You have respectable patients!

You treated an Active State Councillor
only yesterday!

My advice:
forget that scribbling.

Buy decent furniture. Take a loan
to pay for it, and be a doctor!

Be a doctor!

All of Moscow will come to you!

- Father, it's time for tea.
- I'm coming! Coming!

"Chew properly," our father used to say.
We chewed, walked 2 hours a day,

and washed with cold water, and still
became unhappy, useless people."

-From Chekhov's notebooks.

It's so boring, sister,

to waste my time on trifling stories,
with friends in taverns,

and even on courting
your lovely girlfriends.

So what to do now?

Yes, what now?

It'd be nice to marry
a rich woman.

Pity that your Lika's without dowry.
- Indeed.

- As they said in old novels...
- What they said in old novels?

"He decided to turn
his life around."

To the conqueror of Sakhalin!

March happily on land
be safe at sea,

and don't lose heart in a storm!

Train N 42 will depart
in 20 minutes.

Go ahead, I'll pay
and catch up with you.

I need to speak with Ignaty
in private.

If anything happens to me,
if I'm drowned or something like this

take care of my family.

Whatever the publishers owe me
will go to my sister.

She'll also pay my debts.

You know our stingy publishers,

help her get that money.
- I'll do everything.

You'll be back safe and sound,
but I still can't understand this folly.

Why this dreadful Sakhalin?

Didn't you ever want to
go to the edge of the world?

When I was a schoolboy.

How can you leave now
when you're in the papers?

- Maybe that's why I'm leaving.
- Who remembers that vile article?

Just today, I read
with some pleasure,

that you and I are Russia's
trendiest writers now.

Of course, Leo Tolstoy doesn't count?

Maybe I shouldn't be leaving.

When you get bored
along the way, read my story.

I will.

Train N 42 will depart
in 15 minutes.


Gil! Gil!

- Where from?
- Everywhere. Hello.

From the Volga, the Don,
and the Kuban...

- Look at that suntan!
- Here's for you from our homeland.

- What is it?
- For the road...

- A smoked goose.
- Oh!

Pork fat, two bottles of
wine from the Don.

Cured fish.

Much appreciated, Gil!

Thank you so much.
- But of course!

Masha! Ignaty promised
he wouldn't let you get bored.

I'll do my best to entertain her.

- What about me?
- I'd be honored.

Are you also going
to be bored?

I'll be missing you.

With so many admirers,
you wouldn't have time for boredom.

- Can we talk privately?
- Of course.

- Excuse me.
- Excuse me, Masha.

I was going to give you
an embroidered road pillow.

- But you lacked diligence?
- I lacked sentimentality.

Here's your brutally masculine gift.
- What is it?

Drink this bottle
on the saddest day of your trip.

I'll drink it on the Pacific coast

when we'll be 10,000 km apart.

This will be your saddest day?

"My good Tungus friends,

I see mileposts, migrants, prisoners
moving to their destination.

I also meet vagrants.
The shaky motion makes me sick.

The wind and rain has made
my face look like fish scales.

This Moscow gentleman now
looks like a rogue.

But the view of the Yenisei has amply
rewarded me for all the troubles...

I stood on its bank and thought

about a full, intelligent and bright
life that will come here eventually.

The people here are good.

In Siberia, people aren't afraid
to speak up.

There's no one to arrest them
and exile them any farther.

My God, Russia is so rich
with good people!

The mighty rivers, taiga,
coachmen, wildlife,

and the torment of
the abominable roads,

all this is so great that
I can't describe it.

Tell Lika that her bottle
is still intact

though three times I was close to
becoming a headless horseman..."

"Last night I dreamed of her,
I wonder if I've fallen in love".

Not so fast!

"By the way, how is she,
that seductive maiden?

Whom Ignaty Potapenko is courting:
you or Lika?

Or he finds time for both?"

Oh, Lika, fatal beauty, you were
confused and you confused everyone.

l don't know how to untangle it.

Life is so complicated.

Maybe life is simpler
than what we think of it?

Let's go to the platform.

It's still early. It's windy there
and I've a cold.

Go ahead!

I see that you want
to be alone.

Admit that your Melikhovo
was a silly idea.

You left Moscow
for this wilderness...

11 km away from the railroad!

Sorry, I don't get it.

I adore nature myself
but only in a good weather.

And I'm blissfully happy here.

After my Sakhalin labors,
my Moscow flat with its intrigues,

vanity and hypocrisy seemed to me
so petty-bourgeois and boring,

I was ready to bite.
- This trip of yours to Sakhalin...

will certainly adorn your biography,
and you'll be called very original.

But now you realize that Sakhalin's
of no use or interest to anybody?


Sakhalin is useful and interesting.

Our people made amazing feats
while exploring it.

And you're saying:
"It's of no use."

I saw everything there.

I got up at five each morning,
and retired late at night.

I visited all the villages, conducted
a census, talked to everyone.

We've let millions of people
rot in prisons

for no reason, casually,

We drove people in chains,
through the cold thousands of miles,

infected them with syphilis, made them
depraved, multiplied criminals...

And we blamed everything on
red-faced prison wardens.

I saw a flogging too,

after which I dreamed
of the executioner

and the awful whipping bench.

That's when Sakhalin seemed
like hell to me.

What a weakling I'd have been now
if I stayed home.

Maybe I've matured after the trip,
or got wiser, who knows!

Or maybe gone crazy?
You waste your life on short stories.

While you're agonizing over
a single line, I write a page.

- Everyone writes as he can.
- Of course, of course!

Of course, you write
better than me.

Who sees the difference?
Just you and I.

Critics always put our names
next to each other.

Trying hard for the public's sake
makes no sense.

The public reads us and
says patronizingly:

"Nice, talented, good writers."

And it will be like this
till we die.

Immortality is tempting
but elusive.

Is it worth sacrificing
the joys of life for it?

You could be left with nothing.

Breathe. Breathe again.


How long have you got it?
- A few weeks.

Why didn't you come to me

Get dressed.

Take a tablespoon of this medicine
3 times a day.

It should help.

Sir, I beg you for Christ's sake.

- Well! Goodbye then.
- Thank you, doctor.


Masha, we have guests!
- Who?

- Lika and Potapenko.
- Splendid!


Lika! Stop!

Masha! They've brought
their own food!

Just like children!

- And Christmas tree decorations.
- And champagne!

- My New Year's gift to you.
- Your new novella?

- Even better. A novel!
- Wow!

- Please!
- Merci!

Attention, please!

Look at this bottle
with reverence.

It's traveled 30,000 km!

You promised to drink it
on the Pacific coast.

Couldn't find a suitable company.

The bottle that made such a trip
deserves only a refined company!

Wait, Anton, before drinking
to the New Year...

Let's say goodbye
to the last year!

For Masha. For me.

For Lika.

For Dad and Mom.

For you, Ignaty.
- Thanks.

Cheers to the last year!

- Masha!
- Anton.

What kind of sounds I hear...

They captivate my heart.

And on the wings of Zephyr,

They fly to us as if from Heaven.

The leaves are whispering
among themselves

in the moonlight.

Believe this sound is
a play of imagination.

No wonder, you feel so unwell.

No! No!

Train N 2 is 15 minutes late.

Masha, my friend!
My little sister!

I've been missing you.

You've come right for the premiere.
It's tonight.

I know it but not from your brother.

Once I'd heard about the premiere,
I decided to go back to Russia.

I packed in a single day.

I was afraid of being late.

Not sure if I can live up
to your expectations.

You certainly will.

I'm lenient to him now.



After we've brought in your luggage
I'd suggest a little walk.

- With you, wherever you like.
- I won't come along.

Nothing has changed
since we parted.

You're still modest and noble,
Masha is still tactful.

It's not tact, it's wisdom.

"It's best to avoid describing
the characters' state of mind.

It should be made clear
through their actions.

There's no need for
an abundance of characters.

One should concentrate on
just two: him and her..."

A. Chekhov (in a letter to
his brother Alexander, May 10, 1886)

Do I look older?

You've got prettier.
If it's even possible.

Hooray! You've learned
to pay compliments.

I've had no news from you.

I found out about your play
from acquaintances.

What's your play about?

About acquaintances.

The play turned out so well
that you got conceited,

and stopped writing to me.


I just wanted to see you.

I had nothing to write to you about,
because everything stays the same.

The same?

I'll still be hopelessly
loving you.

Am I going to be
that foolish again?

What are you thinking about?
Had an idea for a short story?

Oddly enough, I was thinking
about you.

- And I was thinking about you.
- We're even then.

Do you recall our walk
in the grove?

When was this?
Seems like a century ago.

And then we ran to
that enchanting lake.

The good old days...

There was a day, when I was
seriously contemplating suicide.

I wrote you a farewell letter,

bequeathing you my diary...

"It might be useful for
a humorous story."

And then, as usual, I acted
against my intentions...

I burned the diary
and saved myself.

For what's sake?

All this time, I have felt guilty
towards you.

Let's not poke in old wounds.

Today's such a special day
for you.

I've lived through a drama,
you've written a drama...

So we're even.


- I'll see you at the premiere?
- Of course.

- See you tonight.
- See you.

Where to, sir?

Wherever you want.

- I came to bother you again.
- Is Potapenko with you?

No, his wife took him to a spa.

- And you're upset?
- Terribly.

I got myself a new admirer.
- Who is it?

- Uncle Gil.
- Ah Gil!

- This mushroom's mine!
- Stop!

Now, everyone's on their own!

The mushroom likes
one-on-one meetings.

You know what's best
about mushrooms?

That you can drink
a bucketful with them!

Come on! Let's go!

Why you so seldom
come to Melikhovo?

Mom's afraid there are
bohemians here.


If you only knew how
I'm tired of people!

Especially, of my admirers.

I find it hard to believe that
you're dreaming of Melikhovo,

while being at the symphony hall
in a new blue dress

which, they say,
really becomes you.

You're even informed
of my clothes?

Potapenko mentions you in every letter,
as if I cared about his happiness.

No need for such irony.

He can't compete with you.

Hey! Where are you?

Gil is coming...

to scare away
birds and humans alike.

Why don't you come here
without a bodyguard?

Come alone, we'll have
long walks and talk for hours.

I'd be good for you and I
to go on a trip,

far, far away, but your classes
will begin soon...

- I quit the school.
- Didn't get along with the superiors?

- No, the students.

Listening to out-of-tune singing
all day long is intolerable.

Have you ever thought of doing
something about your voice?

You could become
a great singer.

Have you thought about this?
- I have.

For serious studies, I'd need
to go to Italy or France.

- Right.
- With what money?

It's too late anyway.

So what are you going to do?

I'll get an office job and will sing
at my relatives' birthday parties.

There's a big crocodile
inside you, Lika.

And really I do well
to follow common sense

and not my heart
which you have bitten.

It's hard to tell when you're
joking or speaking seriously.

But seriously, why don't we
take advantage of your freedom

and go to the Caucasus

Take the trouble to
book us the tickets.


Now you realize that
this is not a joke?

Tickets aren't a joking matter.

What kind of tree is this?

An elm.

How nice.

A dream.


- Did you call?
- This dress needs ironing.

Yes, madam.

Lika, don't bother with
the tickets to the Caucasus.

I can't leave Melikhovo.

I've been appointed
a cholera doctor in the region.

There's a lot of work.

I've been given 25 villages,
and no helpers.

I despise cholera, but I'm supposed
to be afraid of it like everyone else.

There's neither the time
nor the mood for writing.

I wanted to write
something sweet to you,

but I was afraid
you'd mistake that for irony.

Have a good time and don't
forget us too soon.

Remember, how you and I
were running to the lake?

I think about it
as my youth.


My God, what a rain!

Are you happy I came alone?
- I am.

I couldn't tell.

I must've again interfered
with some charitable activity.

But I suddenly wanted
to hang onto your arm,

so it would ache for
the next three months.

Where's your carriage?

I came on horseback.
On my Rocinante.

- You used to joke more gracefully.
- Alas, I'm not joking.

The road is a sea of mud, and
our Melikhovo's become an island.

Clever. Well, let's go look
for a coach.

I've searched around,
no one wants to go there.

- Let's wait it out inside the station.
- Wait for what?

Until the rain stops.

I thought, until a sleigh path
is established.

Your character's like
sour gooseberries.

Hello, doctor!

Just a minute.
Please, wait.


Haven't seen you in a while.
Your stomach doesn't hurt anymore?

- Doesn't hurt, thank you.
- God bless you.

I meant to come to you
to say goodbye...

Didn't have time.
- How far you're going?

- To Siberia.
- Where to exactly?

- Siberia is vast.
- Where's better.

You've been to Siberia?

- They say, life's better there.
- It varies.

Can't be any worse than here.

Good luck!

Thank you, doctor.

Why on earth I came here?
I thought I'd be greeted properly.

Why are you angry? It wasn't me
who made the road impassable.

Why you fled from Moscow
into this wilderness?

You wanted to emulate Leo Tolstoy?
- Well! What nonsense, Lika.

Got into your den to eat, sleep,
and write for pleasure.

Yes, I eat and sleep,
but so do you,

despite being so ephemeral.

As for writing, my charming lady,
you said it,

because you've never
experienced it yourself.

This pleasure takes up your whole life.
I was thinking about you...

How come? There were no patients
or stories to write?

In between the stories.

You have 10,000 virtues,
and only one fault:

you don't have a work you love,

and you don't feel
the need for it.

My God, you're so rational!

I wish you could be irrational
just for a day, a minute!

Only idlers or hopeless egoists
can afford to be irrational.

And I...
- You...

Never mind!
Everything's so clear.

I played the role of the cheese
which you refused to eat.

But yet all this time, you quietly
wanted to taste it.

You just don't love me.

And you know what?
Buy me a ticket back to Moscow.


Put it there.


- Hello. - Hi, wandering soul!
You were sick?

I didn't have the time.

- You haven't written to me in ages.
- I've been writing for mankind.

You're joking, and
we've been worried.


But seriously, I was sick.

- With what? - It wasn't physical
but emotional sickness.

I felt so down as never before.

I felt so lonely but I found
my cure at the writing desk.

It was the best autumn
of my life.

Loneliness is a beautiful thing
once you've called it privacy.

Masha, congratulate me:
I've finished my book on Sakhalin!

The book is fine
but we exist too.

Don't grumble, I wasn't carousing
or chasing rabbits.

I couldn't abandon the manuscript!

By the way, I'm starving.
- Let's go home, I'll feed you.

To hell with your thrifty meals!
Look in the window:

there's a coach, and the horses
are impatiently beating their hooves.

Let's pick up Lika and go
to a posh restaurant!

Lika left for Paris yesterday.


Where did she get the money?

Potapenko loaned her.

Ah, I see!

"If you're afraid of loneliness,
don't get married".

- from Chekhov's notebooks

Yes, you've missed Lika.
And you'll regret it!

Did you plan to marry me
to her?

You really like a caged bird,

the scent of glycerin soap, all these
signs of a married man's flat?

Stop! This is stupid!

Don't you realize you were
running away from your happiness!

You'll remain a hermit, all alone,
call it privacy if you like!

You forget that I already have
medicine as my lawful wife,

and literature as my mistress.

So it was fine to abandon Lika
but not your book?

She loved you so much!

Loved me?

Yes, loved you!

But you cured her of this forever.
You pathetic doctor!

It's not so simple, Masha.

Oh, Lika!

Yes, she's smart,
but she's spoiled,

skittish and therefore
likes attention.

And I...

Try to understand...

A writer is not a confectioner,
not a cosmetician, not an entertainer.

You're reasoning,
and she was crying!

You should've seen her sobbing
at the station!

Don't torture yourself. She didn't go
to the middle of nowhere!

In Paris, one quickly forgets.
- Don't talk platitudes. Shame on you!

She went to study singing,
she wants to become a singer.



Only here you realize
man's greatness!

You would've been here without me.

If you hesitated longer
I would've found another guide.

How was your premiere?

Everything went great:
ovations, curtain calls...

The curtain went up 14 times.

The reviews were so great,
I'm embarrassed to quote them.

One of them even
compared me to Chekhov.

- I hope it was in your favor?
- Yes, believe it or not.

The reviewer notes that
Chekhov writes pessimistically,

And Potapenko - optimistically.

Do you know the title
of the article? "Vigorous Talent."

Enough about me.
How have you been?

You worked hard,
and I kept on singing.


We're saying wrong things.

Because we aren't talking
about the main thing.

Isn't your premiere
the main thing?

Where did you get that irony?
His influence?

Please, ladies and gentlemen.

Be careful on the steps.

Now we're on
the 2nd floor of the tower.

It offers a magnificent
panorama of the entire city.

On your right is the famous
Notre Dame Cathedral.

Russian tourists! It's impossible
to escape our compatriots even here!

- Are we supposed to hide?
- Alas, I have some renown.

And farther ahead is
the Pantheon,

the tomb of all famous
French people.

The Eiffel Tower is the tallest
man-made structure in the world...

My wife told me...

that if I leave her...

she will kill herself.

The construction of the tower
took more than two years.

It was supervised by
the project's author

French engineer Alexandre
Gustave Eiffel.

The tower consists
of 12,000 pieces.

They're connected by
2.5 million rivets.

The tower is considered to be...
- Sorry, I missed that...

How many rivets?

Why are you silent?

I'm listening.

Trying to remember how
many thousands of rivets?

The tower is a symbol of
the technological progress of mankind.

It's used for research
and tourist purposes.

And for suicide.

Maybe I should kill myself
if you don't leave her?

Right now!

And tomorrow's papers will write
about a young Russian woman.

I'll be famous at last!

Lika! Stay away!

Don't worry.

I have no right to kill myself.
- What does it mean?

- Whatever suits you!
- It's like a Dostoevsky novel!

I'll end up shooting myself!

What Eiffel is building now?

Eiffel isn't building anything now.

He participated in the construction
of the Panama Canal...

A year ago, he was sued, along with
other contractors, for misuse of funds.

Man is so great
and so pathetic!

Lika, why are you saying
this to me?

I haven't made up my mind yet.
- I was speaking of Eiffel.

You don't have
to decide anything.

Life will decide for us.

Everything will stay the same.

Nothing will happen to
either me or your wife.

And you won't shoot yourself.

Because you look
at life optimistically.

There's an observatory and a beacon
at the top of the tower.

No further questions? 15 minutes
for a tour, and then we're going down.

No further questions.

Let's go down.

"I'm fed up with Paris. There was
a nice Russian family, but they left.

They spoke of you in awe...
asked me about your beliefs -

if you are a Marxist.
Here everyone says that "The Seagull"

is based on my life, and you also
did a good job on a certain someone".

from L. Mizinova's letter to Chekhov

- Not ready yet? It's time to go
to the theatre. - I'm coming!

- My God! You ate nothing.
- I'll make it up at dinner.

Yes! Come in.

You're dawdling,
and I'm ready.

- Good evening!
- Good evening.

I have everything ready.

I only need to put in the names
of distinguished guests. Here goes:

Yesterday, the Imperial Alexandrinsky
Theatre held a successful premiere

of Anton Chekhov's new play
"The Seagull."

I'll put "triumphant" instead
of "successful"!

Sasha, what you're doing?
Anton will be unhappy.

You want some other journalist
to benefit from Anton's success?

No way! They reserved 200 lines
for my review.

Listen to this: "The play's plot
is novel and original..."


Do you know?
The Grand Duke's coming.

Admit it, you're shaking
in your shoes?


- Oh! Hello.
- Good evening.

Privy Councillor Kurbatov.
Don't forget his new rank.

I need to see who's accompanying
the Grand Duke, it's very important.

Hello! Congratulations
on your premiere!

Congratulations on
your promotion!

Thank you!

- Why do you always... - Why do you
always wear black?

- This is mourning...
- This is mourning for my life.

- I am unhappy.
- I am unhappy.

- Why? I don't understand.
- You are healthy.

You are healthy. Though your father
isn't rich, he has a good competency.

My life is far harder than yours.

I'm only paid 23 rubles a month,
minus pension-fund deductions,

but I don’t wear mourning.

It's not about the money.
Poor men are often happy.

The Grand Duke's arrived.
Grand Duke!

My mother, my two sisters,
my little brother and I

must all live somehow
on my salary of 23 rubles.

We have to eat and drink.
What about tea and sugar?

And tobacco? Answer me that,
if you can.

- The play will soon begin.
- Yes.

Nina Zarechnaya is going
to act in Konstantin's play.

She loves me, loves me not?

Loves me, loves me not?

Loves me, loves me not?

You see!
My mother doesn’t love me.

Why should she? She likes life
and love and bright clothes.

I'm already 25 - this reminds her
that she's no longer young.

- When I'm away...
- When I'm away...

- She is only 32.
- She is only 32,

in my presence, she's 43,
and she hates me for that!

She also knows that I despise
the theatre.

She adores it, she thinks that she
serves mankind, serves a sacred art.

But I think the modern theatre is
a vehicle of convention and prejudice!

When the curtain rises
on that little three-walled room,

these great talents, these
high priests of art

show us people in the act
of eating, drinking, loving,

walking, and wearing their coats,

and attempt to extract a moral
from their insipid talk...

a tiny, digestible,
household-friendly moral...

When they give us,
under a thousand different guises,

the same old stuff,
then I must run from it

as Maupassant ran
from the Eiffel Tower,

which was crushing his brain
by its vulgarity.

Come, come here.

- Holidays?
- Holidays.

Thank God! I've been
missing you, Masha.

- Still nothing from Lika?
- No.

What are you doing, rascal?
I'm planting, you're pulling it out!

- Sorry, I haven't noticed.
- Haven't noticed!

You're somewhere else!

You have a foolishly blissful look,
you must've written something.

A novel? A story?

If it's not a secret, what are
you writing? - A play.

- Way to go! Not scared?
- I'm scared.

I'm not good at plays. I wrote them
the old way but we need new forms.

What's the play about?

I want to write a story
of a girl.

She lived happily, loved, dreamed of fame
and suddenly fell into a whirlpool.

Life's worn her out...

I have the play ready
in my mind.

I only need to write it down.

I'm almost done.

I'm still working on the ending.

How should it end?

You know, I received
a letter from Lika a while ago.

- And hiding it from me? How could you?
- She asked me not to show you.

I've thought it over and decided
that you ought to know everything.

"Dear Masha,

I've long forgotten what joy
or peace look like.

When Ignaty had left
I wanted to kill myself.

Ignaty probably loves me,
but he loves himself more.

He only wants pleasures in life,
and ignores unpleasant truths..."

"His wife stops at nothing..."

Here: "I left and settled
in the country,

to avoid people, their questions
and sympathy.

I lived here all alone, I was only
getting letters from my mother,

since I didn't give my address
to anyone else.

I wrote her funny, carefree letters.
She knows nothing.

Then my baby girl was born in
horrible conditions, and then she died.

I'm back in Paris, I'm singing,
getting old and thin...

It's cold, damp, and lonely here.
Life isn't worth a damn.

Don't show this letter to anyone,
even to Anton. Lika."

I feel sorry for her.

I feel even more sorry for you,
though it's all your fault.

Oh, venerable olden shadows,

that swarm over this lake at night,
lull us to sleep

and bring us dreams of what
will be in 200,000 years.

There'll be nothing
in 200,000 years.

Then let us see that nothing!

It's fashionable now!



These civilized barbarians, dropouts,
aristocratic oafs are laughing!

By the way, the Grand Duke
hasn't been laughing.

- He's crying.
- Stop it!


I'm sorry!

I overlooked the fact that
writing plays and acting them

are for the selected few!

Gentlemen! There are more
of us here than in the audience!

- It's the intermission already?
- Not yet, my dear!

I've had enough of this!

Gentlemen, let's have
a shot of vodka instead!

We must drink to forget.

Otherwise we'll dream
of "men, lions and partridges"!

You have a light?

This "Seagull"
is neither fish nor foul!



- Did you hear? What an audience!
- It was quiet at Ostrovsky's plays.

- He knew how to please the audience.
- They write nonsense these days!

Yes, my dear, literature and theatre
are two different things.

"We need new forms." Who needs them:
you, me, or the audience?

Hey! Pull up the lake!

Pull up the trees!

Bring down the garden.
That's it.

How many times I told you
not to let strangers onto the stage!

Come on, Lika!
Take it easy.

Calm down.

Dear Masha,

you still have the strength
to comfort others!

Don't let these fools
see our suffering.

I hate them!

Anton dear!

Sit down.

They're scribbling.
Pen bandits!

"A crash with fatalities at
the Alexandrinsky Theatre."

Even His Highness' presence
didn't help. Let's drink!

If we can't drink to its success,
let's drink to its memory.

Well! To the newly departed!

It's not your fault, brother,

that you're ahead of your time.
People got small.

They can't appreciate
either a novel or a play.

How you perfectly
put it yourself:

"What is the life of each one of us?
A subject for a short story."

Excuse me, you want to share the ride?
We're going the same way.

Or you aren't ready yet?

- Go ahead! I'll wait till the end.
- Why wait? May I?

The game is over.
Why delay the publication?

To your health.

- Go, Sasha.
- Go ahead, I'll catch up.

I have to write about it,
or else they'll fire me.

That's it!

Forgive the bastard.

- You're leaving soon?
- I don't know.

- See you later?
- Uh-huh.

Champagne? Cognac?

I don't care.

I understand, sir.

- I've been looking for you.
- No, Lika...

I don't need consolation. I just
need to learn how to write plays.

Maybe I never will.
- My God! What are you saying?

What you've written
is wonderful!

Oh no!

No! If you only knew
how wonderful it is!

And how I'm grateful to you
for everything!

What you've written
is about me and you,

about happiness and sorrow.

It's about that unexplainable
and unattainable love,

because we all make mistakes,

and don't follow what life
dictates us. - Lika!

My dear!

My love!

I loved you, but you
didn't love me.

It's nobody's fault.

But I'm happy.

I'm happy that I could breathe
the same air with you.

Oh, I'm so proud of you!

Goodbye now!

"Why Hamlet was so worried
about afterlife visions,

when life itself is filled
with far more horrible sights?"

- from Chekhov's notebooks

90, 45,


Duck. Double.

- So!
- 86.

For you.

- Mom, pour me some tea.
- Oh, Anton Pavlovich!

Your Melikhovo is
always on my way.

Mrs. Chekhov's pies are
so delicious!

- Help yourself.
- Thanks!

The coachman drove carefully?
Nothing's damaged?

- All intact.
- 70.

Thank God, everything went well!
We were so worried.

- I wasn't worried at all.
- 52.

If the actors of the Imperial Theatre
are involved, it'll be great.

- How many curtain calls?
- 50.

- Wait! How many calls?
- I didn't count.

Why haven't you brought
Masha and Lika along?

- The road's so bad!
- You're right...

Tell me how it was.

I'll tell you tomorrow.
I'm very tired.

Have a rest, son.

Now when your play's going well,
maybe we'll have some money.

- Of course, Mom.
- God bless...

I recall Anton when he was
still a student...

Over tea in the morning,
he would suddenly become pensive...

Sometimes he'd look straight at me,
but seemed so distant...

Then he'd take out a notebook
and would start writing something.

And then he'd become
pensive again.

- 86, 80.

[Indistinct chatter]

Every night I dream that you're
looking at me and don't recognize me.

It's so nice here,
so warm and cozy.

You're a writer, I'm an actress.

We’ve both been sucked
into the whirlpool.

I know now what matters
in our work.

What matters for an actor
or a writer

is not fame or glitter,

but the ability to endure.

To be able to bear one's cross
and have faith!

I have faith and
it's not so painful now.

And when I think of
my calling,

I'm not afraid of life.

"I anticipate happiness,
I already see it.

Here it is, happiness, getting closer,
I can hear its footsteps.

And if we won't see it,
won't know it, what's the harm?

Someone else will..."
A. Chekhov