The Last Station
The Last Station is a powerful portrayal of the intense domestic drama that played itself out in the final years of Leo Tolstoy, the iconic Russian writer. Directed by Michael Hoffman, the movie is a convincing adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jay Parini.
Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp of ‘The Sound of Music’) lives up to his reputation as the spirited Count Leo Tolstoy, while Helen Mirren gives a sweeping portrayal of the Countess Sofya, Tolstoy’s wife of 48 years, who while loving him passionately, is at odds with him regarding his decision to hand over his estate to the Russian people for the ‘common good’.
Vladimir Cherykov (Paul Giamatti) stars as Tolstoy’s right hand man, brainwashing him to stick to the ideals he preached. From Sofia’s perspective, he is the villain of their matrimonial peace, the man who eggs her husband on to belong to “the world” rather than to her.
Valentine Bulgakov (James McAvoy) enters the scene as a spy posted by Cherykov. As the movie proceeds, we realise that he plays a pivotal role, bringing to life, the perplexities that the movie contends with. A devotee of the Tolstoyan Movement, which preaches celibacy among other things, Bulgakov is torn apart between his ideals and the sexual attraction that he feels for a farm hand, Masha. The confusion that he encounters during the course of the movie directs and reflects the audience’s frame of mind.
While the movie convincingly portrays the chaos ensuing from the clash between starry-eyed idealism and pragmatism, it is more than just that. It is eventually a story about love, a sweeping, often subversive emotion that cannot be contained by ideologies, principles or values.
The Last Station shows how a man of celebrity status who started a religion of sorts cannot find the answers in his ideologies as he walks the tightrope of societal expectations and the demands made by love. Above all, it proves the profundity of a statement from Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ with which the movie begins: "Everything I know I know only because I love.”