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Studio Home Entertainment presents
Onegin (1999)

"I saw there tenderness, but dared not put my trust in it..."
- Eugene Onegin (Ralph Fiennes)

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: July 09, 2000

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler
Other Stars: Toby Stephens, Lena Headey
Director: Martha Fiennes

Manufacturer: AD California
MPAA Rating: R for brief violence and a sexual image
Run Time: 01h:45m:56s
Release Date: July 11, 2000
UPC: 658149751521
Genre: romance

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-B D-

DVD Review

If you are one of those hopeless unromantics who label character studies involving love relationships as "chick flicks," it's best you move on to one of our bloody slice-'em-up Anchor Bay reviews. Onegin, based on the 1831 Russian novel by Alexander Pushkin, relates the story of Eugene Onegin (Ralph Fiennes), a self-centered bastard who joyfully awaits his uncle's death (well, as joyful as a sullen, upper class scrooge can muster), and the inheritance of the estate that comes with it. While hunting in the woods he befriends a neighborly poet, Vladimir Lensky, sparing the poet's life despite catching him trespassing.

A young, local girl, Tatyana Lauden (Liv Tyler), who visits his Uncle's manor to borrow books from the large library, falls passionately in love with Onegin, but as one would expect, her love is unrequited. Her every attempt falls squarely upon a frigid heart. Finally, as he prepares to leave, he tells her she is best off waiting for someone else "more deserving of her affections." Prognosticating, Tatyana replies, "You curse yourself."

Although, it is ultimately the love plays between Vladimir, Olga, Tatyana and Eugene that move the plot, it is the relationship between the two men that is central to the movement of character. It is Vladimir that brings the stoic, uppity Eugene to life, but only at his own peril. At a gathering Eugene (pronounced ew-gen-ee) dances one too many times with Olga, Vladimir's love, and then insults her when Vladimir confronts him. Vladimir, as the times dictated, requests a duel in order to gain satisfaction.

Martha Fiennes direction is nearly as exemplary as her brother Ralph's remarkable performance. Fiennes, who was absolutely robbed of an Oscar® by the Academy for his amazing performance as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, is at once able to portray a man dead to warmth in Onegin, rejecting the adoring Tatyana, then passionate, warm and now himself adoring and consumed as he realizes the errors of his ways when he finds her all grown years later at a St. Petersburg ball. Tyler is adorable as the lovestruck Tatyana, and her performance is admirable, if not slightly betrayed by her filmography, which proceeds her.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a very sullen movie, with lots of browns, dark reds and grays, and the colors here are handled well, particularly fleshtones. There is edge enhancement, though not entirely distracting on my 45" display—with the exception of a woodland scene. The worst part of this transfer is that it contains quite a bit of Mpeg-2 noise, which distracted me during a couple of scenes. I do not believe this is an anamorphic transfer, but scanlines are mostly apparent only in lighter, outdoor scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The English Dolby 2.0 track is more than adequate, presenting a decent, robust front soundstage when necessary (the riding of horses, the shooting of a gun). This is a character film however, and mostly reliant on dialogue, which is at all times audible and understandable. The surrounds are virtually unused. The appropriate musical score was written by the third Fiennes sibling, Magnus. The overall sound was well transfered, and there is little need to adjust the volume low to high, high to low—which to a condo dweller like me is a pleasure!

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not only is a trailer the single supplement on this disc, there isn't even a scene access menu, despite having 24 chapters! I doubt there will be any subtitles either, but for once I can be thankful there wasn't a subtitle track on this beta disc, because it would have been in conflict with the horrible intertitle Sterling has brought with them ("This is a screener copy only. Not for sale or rental") popular when VHS was a format of consequence.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Onegin brings with it both inspired performances and the tepid romance popular with 19th Century nobility throughout Europe and Russia. Some will find it cold and unfulfilling, but despite it's low-key atmosphere, Onegin is a rich tapestry of costumes, dances, and periodic settings, revealing the self-indulgent upper end of a caste society unknowingly nearing its downfall. Recommended.


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