The Last Station


The final days in the life of Leo Tolstoy are depicted in The Last Station, directed by Michael Hoffman. The main plot involves the new will of Count Tolstoy (played by Christopher Plummer), which the Countess (played by Helen Mirren) fears will cut her and their children of income from royalties on his many best-selling books. Seeing a profit for himself, Vladmir Chertkoff (played by Paul Giamatti) draws up the will, believing that the royalties should be shared with all the Russian people. Chertoff heads the so-called Tolstoyan movement, which professes the need for celibate love, democracy, and social justice, although the Count believes that he could not live up to the sexual ideals. In order to provide some chemistry to the biopic, Jay Perini (on whose novel the film is based) interjects a love affair between a young recently hired secretary Valentin Bulgakov (played by James McAvoy) and libertinistic Masha (played by Kerry Condon), a member of the Tolstoyan commune. The Countess’s hysterical efforts to dissuade her husband from signing the new will are so intolerable that he boards a train with his entourage for a destination in the south, but his health gives way at the last station on the line. Titles at the end explain what happened to the will and her ultimate fate. As a film exposé of what became of Tolstoy’s life, the Political Film Society has nominated The Last Station as best film exposé of 2009.  MH

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