The Kreutzer Sonata

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): ***

The Kreutzer Sonata, directed and co-written (with Lisa Enos) by Bernard Rose tracks the journey of a jealous husband's relationship with his pianist wife. A modern adaptation of a Tolstoy novella, the film has a number of good things to warrant a recommendation. The movie leaves all credit information, save its title, to the end, a fact I was grateful for when I finished considering the quality of the director's previous works (PaperhouseCandymanImmortal Beloved and Anna Karenina). Yet, it is my second favorite of his films I've seen so far (his most recent work, Mr. Nice with Rhys Ifans, is even better).

This movie, shot on what seems a very tight budget, uses a hand-held camera and snappy editing to capture two very good performances from its stars Danny Huston and Elisabeth Röhm.

Music, jealousy and vengeance all play a part in the proceedings, as they tend to do in so many movies in which music and desire intersect (The Page Turner is another such). In this instance, the music is beautifully played, the love is so shallow (on the male’s part) that it's more just an act of sexual aggression, and the vengeance is crazy, needless and sad. But that’s what the green-eyed monster too often serves up.

Huston is always good; his kind of creepy charisma has held together some pretty "iffy" movies, and this one is no exception. Turning 50 this very month, the actor is in great physical shape and can handle a nude sex scene with the best of them. He is also as good as it gets in terms of offering that special kind of menace that tries so hard not to be menacing. The guy can't help it.

Röhm, on the other hand, is a fine foil: light, lithe, open, and - whew -- gorgeous! Unless you're somewhat prudish, you should enjoy their many nude romps. But as the movie moves along, because its subject is jealousy, it simply goes where this theme leads without any surprises, and with, alas, Rose's penchant for the florid. This guy can't help it, either. And for me, at least, his excess ends up lessening all of his films.

Even so, The Kreutzer Sonata is worth a watch. The DVD, finally available (the film was made in 2008), comes with no extras. But don’t complain: Röhm and Huston should prove enough.

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