Director: Iosif Kheifits (HEIFITZ, Iosif)
Cast: Iya Savvina - Anna Sergeyovna
Aleksey Batalov - Dimitri Gurov
Nominated for BAFTA Film Award
Josef Heifitz’s film adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog” was released in Russia in I960 in honour of the Chekhov Centenary. In 1987, Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov made “The Lady with the Dog” the kernel story for the Russian/Italian co-production entitled Dark Eyes. This loose adaptation is more reminiscent of Fellini than Chekhov in its expansive, free-wheeling style and insistent sentimentality.’
Mikhalkov’s Dark Eyes stars Marcello Mastroianni, who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor. According to the credits, the film is “based on the short stories of Anton P. Chekhov.” Along with “The Lady with the Dog,” other sources for the film include “Anna on the Neck” and “My Wife.”
For filmgoers who prefer their Chekhov neat, Heifitz offers a far more literal adaptation in a deceptively simple, unadorned style. Although Mikhalkov’s more flamboyant, broadly comic, technicolor film may well be more immediately accessible and appealing to contemporary audiences, Heifitz’s restrained, austere style befits Chekhov’s prose and produces its own considerable rewards.
Writing a celebratory piece on Heifitz’s film in the Swedish journal, Chaplin, Ingmar Bergman recalls how he prepared Chekhov’s The Seagull for a Stockholm theatre production by making the cast look at Heifitz’s film. According to Bergman, the film “emerges from the work itself, and is enormously faithful towards Chekhov in a way that I have seldom experienced in film.” (Ingmar Bergman, “Away with Improvisation-THIS is Creation,” Films and Filming, September 1961, p. 13.)