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by devourslowly

The mistake made by Alexey Alexandrovitch in that, when preparing for seeing his wife, he had overlooked the possibility that her repentance might be sincere, and he might forgive her, and she might not die–this mistake was two months after his return from Moscow brought home to him in all its significance. But the mistake made by him had arisen not simply from his having overlooked that contingency, but also from the fact that until that day of his interview with his dying wife, he had not known his own heart.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

H and I kicked off the bank holiday weekend with a lazy dinner at Rikka and a quiet film at the local pictures.


We intended it to be a quiet film and a quiet night out. Imagine our jaw-dropping-gobsmacked selves when arriving at the Rialto we found ourselves barely able to squeeze into the building let along the ticket queues. By Jove I don’t think I had EVER seen the cinema so busy. The foyer was swarming with girls. Giggling girls with their skinny jeans tucked into knee high boots (some of which, I regret to say, come with disturbing open toes), long chain necklaces and the latest fashion must-have: studded handbags. Each girl looked the same as the next and everyone seemed to know everyone else. The giggling, the squealing and the ‘Hello D-A-R-L-I-N-G’ Parisian cheek-smooching made quite a gilded sight to behold. There is NO-WAY in heaven and hell Helen Mirren, bless her, can attract this much audience. In fact, upon observing the demographics present, I wondered if most of them would be old enough to know about Helen Mirren at all.

Hand-to-head. Yes. It was after all the first day of the long weekend and the second day Sex and the City 2 was in town. How did I not think of this? No sooner would I trade in our typical date night for Friday evening chores at home. But resolution won out in the end. We had waited weeks for a date night and I was not about to pack and sad and order the troop homeward. Just because I drive a French car does not mean I lack fighting spirit.

In between being shoved by eager-beaver fashionistas with killer heels (again, some with open toes!) and much needed boots of deep-breaths we finally made our way to the ticket counter. I swear the girl took a look at me and inputted two tickets for Sex and the City without hearing what I had to say. Momentarily taken aback, I panicked. Gosh, have I too fallen into the pit-hole of fashion cliché and ended up looking a much less attractive version of a Kate Moss android?

Don’t get me wrong. Once upon a time I too squealed and swarmed over Bridget Jones, ballet flats and America’s Next Top Model. I too considered myself on the pulse of fashion and owned everything fashionable. In those distant yonder years I, like all other confident and bright young girls, was a trendsetter not a follower. I alluded everything that was suave and fine. Or at least I thought I did.

Yet that was the joy of youth and those years are behind me now. I still like to flick through the occasional fashion mag and prefer the finer things in life. But some time ago I realised looking beautiful and cultivated is fun but tiring; being beautiful and cultivated is tiring but rewarding; having both in spades is Nirvana.

Anyway, I seem to have shot off on a mental tangent.

Deep breath yet again. I calmly informed the ticket girl I would like two tickets for the Last Station and two single scoop ice cream, one in a cone and one in a cup. She gave an innocent ‘Oh’, tapped more keys on her screen and wished us a happy night.

Cinema 7 was cool and quiet. A sharp contrast to the hustle-and-bustle of the front foyer. Happily settled into our seats, I took in my surroundings and found my mind wandering over to the battalion of girls we left behind. The girls who could barely contain their excitements at a movie full of jewel encrusted Manolos, cosmopolitans and whatever chants du jour celebrating the independence of the modern girl, handbag in one arm and boy accessory in the other. The girls who dressed up to partake in what is possibly the single most significant celebration of feminism of our times. A feminism that rests on being ourselves and having it all. What a splendid display of camaraderie! As a retired card carrying member of the glam squad I smiled and never before felt better about the new directions of my life. The kids will be all right 🙂

Apart from Anna Karenina and his impressive face-full of beard, I know very little about Leo Tolstoy. I did have a minor crash on Christopher Plummer’s hooty Captain Georg when youth and naïveté ruled my heart. A week later my affection was transferred back to Peter O’Toole during a re-run of Lawrence of Arabia. My mother bought a Chinese translation of War and Peace when I was too young to read. When age and literacy finally caught up with me, I was quickly drawn to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. First it was the tragic Anna, so beautiful, so wronged, so damaged and so frustrating. Then it was the rude awakening of society and human nature. These days it is a stellar read from cover to cover. A reminder of love and regret. Of duty and desire. Funny how a good story can read so differently each and every time I pick it up.

Until seeing the shorts of the Last Station, I never really given Tolstoy much thought. Without a doubt he was a literary great. Still is in fact. But I never mastered enough curiosity to find out more about him, his family and his politics. His characters were so complex and so complete I never really thought of them as the creation of one man but rather real people meticulously recorded.

In many ways my ignorance made the movie all the more enjoyable.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and his wife Sophia were vividly portrayed by two of the modern screen giants. Christopher Plummer was as convincing as a man caught between his private love and his public persona as Helen Mirren his combative and misunderstood wife. The ensemble cast did not disappoint either. Paul Giamatti relished once again in fine tuning the balance between the comedic and the sinister. Anne Marie Duff’s (Is that her name? Must check) performance of a daughter star-struck by her father’s virtues and hoodwinked into dismissing her mother as ridiculous was unforgettable. James McAvoy… well… he needs only to show up really 🙂

What a thoroughly enjoyable evening! So much so that I only just recall the obnoxiously lady sitting next to me who made comments throughout.

I feel like I know so little. I want to read up more on Tolstoy, on 19th century Russia. I want a copy of The Kingdom of God is Within You. I want to know the background that prompted the Russian senate to grant Sophia Andreevna Bers copyright to her husband’s work. When was the last time a movie prompted this much fanaticism? I really do not recall. There is so much to learn and I simply cannot wait.