We finally got around to seeing the well-reviewed 2009 movie about Tolstoy’s final days, and they did a pretty good job of it. Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren were excellent as the Count and Countess, and young Valentin Bulgakov was a well-chosen viewpoint character. But (sigh) they butchered the Russian names (at one point Sofia Andreyevna is referred to as “Countess Tolstoya”), and they kept having close-ups of an EXIT sign at the eponymous station misspelled as ВЫХОД (missing the prerevolutionary final hard sign, ъ). You can’t have everything.


  1. I’m imagining a Monty Python skit organized around rage at the absence of hard signs in period movies.

  2. yes, apart from a few glitches it’s a very good film, Plummer and Mirren are wonderful (Mirren is of Russian descent, Mironova).
    And the real Bulgakov’s story is amazing, he was arrested by the bolsheviks, then tha nazis, and he organised a Russian cultural centre in Prague saving many of the precious archives, and then returned to Russia after the war and spent the rest of his life as curator at Yasnaya Polyana estate until mid-60s. But Masha is fictional.
    What puzzles me is the Russian-release title of the film ‘Последнее воскресение’ (the last resurrection). I understand that the Last Station is a referrence, if there is one, to the stations of Christ, the via dolorosa, but what is the last resurrection?

  3. Bathrobe says

    What a strange coincidence. The one jarring discrepancy I noticed in ‘The Last EMPEROR’ was the use of Simplified Characters in a railway station just after Liberation.

  4. the Russian-release title of the film ‘Последнее воскресение’ … what is the last resurrection?
    Allow me to pass on my ignorant discovery that воскресение is a novel by Tolstoi published in 1899.

  5. And owing to his death, he would never again write another book of that title. Hence the name.

  6. Similarly, if a film is ever made about the life of Hubert Selby, Jr., its title might be “After The Last Exit” – thus puzzling younger film-goers.

  7. its title might be “After The Last Exit”
    Would that be like “Son of the Last of the Mohicans”?

  8. Makes good sense. Even The Last Station is not the ultimate one – it’s merely the last opportunity to tank up for the next 300 miles.

  9. rootlesscosmo says

    There’s a mention in a Max Beerbohm story of a (fictitious) essayist whose works include “the End of the World–and After.”

  10. no, serious, I don’t want to go into overinterpreting, but the straightforward последняя станция, остановка, works equally well, why resurrection? Are they trying to interpret Tolstoy’s last days as him recanting? He was excommunicated and Russian Orthodox church still hasn’t reconciled itself with Tolstoy.

  11. But it was at that station that he stood up (Auferstehung) for the last time. “Resurrection” is often understood as “the raising of the dead”, as if “raising” were transitive (and God were a forklift operator). But in Germany the dead have to fetch up standing under their own steam.
    What is the historical semantics of “raising of the dead” – did it at one time mean “rising of the dead” ? Have there been theological disputes about this, as with cons- and trans- ?

  12. It’s fascinating – and is it snobbish of me to say surprising? – how accurate ‘The Last Station’ actually is. The main departure from the truth is the invention of Masha, as Sashura points out. Of course, it’s based on a novelization of Tolstoy’s last travels by Jay Parini, which to my shame I have yet to read.
    I have a review of the film with some pictures here.
    Cinema, novels, biographies… has anyone written a poem about Tolstoy’s final trip?

  13. Continuing my thoughts on intransitivity above: do the dead rise of their own accord, or is a leavening agent needed ?

  14. There’s a mention in a Max Beerbohm story of a (fictitious) essayist whose works include “the End of the World–and After.”
    Reminds me a bit of one of my favourite “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moments in Spinal Tap:
    David St. Hubbins: We toured the world, we toured the States…
    Derek Smalls: We toured the world and elsewhere.

  15. Here‘s the direct link to the Dinosaur’s review. And Dino, as long as you’re here: could you jigger your comment function to allow Name/URL? I can no longer comment on your blog, since the system won’t accept my Google ID.

  16. Max Beerbohm
    The End of All Things—And After.”
    The End of the World, and After” is a real essay by Laura Riding just before the War.

  17. Sorry about that, Hat – I had a similar problem recently when I wanted to comment on the wonderful Don Livingstone’s Russian Word of the Day blog. Commenting is now open to all and sundry. Let me know by email if the Blogger Cerberus still refuses to let you post.

  18. My guess is that ‘Последнее воскресение’ is literally correct (Last Sunday, and Nov 20 2010 was Sunday) … with the rest of it being some wordplay with the novel title and the Christ theme, which sort of eludes me in the same way as it eludes you too.
    ‘Последнее воскресение’ conjures up a very different place and time in my mind … ‘Ta ostania nedelia’, a famed antebellum Polish tango which took Russia by storm in its ‘Утомленное солнце’ reincarnation (including many a movie too).

  19. Thanks, Mockba, I didn’t know about that connection. Here’s the video of ‘The Last Sunday’ in Polish. There are expansive articles on wikipedia in Polish and Russian, but only a stub in English. One famous recent version is from Mikhalkov’s subtle version of what it was like under the Great Terror – Burnt by the Sun.
    Still, I’m none the wiser about the Tolstoy film Russian title.

  20. J. W. Brewer says is an interesting mostly-critical review of the film, although I really hope “complicity” is a typo for “complexity.” (together with a subsequent post it links to) has some recollections from the Church’s side of a tantalizingly-close failed possibility of deathbed reconciliation between Tolstoy and the Church.

  21. Offtopic we go 🙂 The same tune is used over and over again, as a poignant parable for the War destroying Love, in Yuri Norstein’s beautiful Tale of Tales (and IMVHO it’s a more significant movie than any of Mikhalkov’s).
    In Poland, they are really enamoured of their pre-war cultural bloom, and ‘Ta Ostatnia Nedelia’ has been remade into countless modern versions (in my collection, in addition to Fogg’s classic rendition, there also remakes even as metal and as techno LOL). Enamoured and maybe even possessive … the other famed Polish dance music transplant to Russia, of the same area, is an equally classic ‘Mala Blakitna Chustechka’, and it throws many Polish conneseurs into a fiercely possessive mode…

  22. Wow, I had no idea. Rio Wang should do a post on this song!

  23. Yes, I also think that international metamorphoses of songs are a perfect Rio Wang material … but last time when we touched a similar topic (in the comments to this Rio Wang post), Studiolum just suggested that I write it up myself.
    These days I often think that it is a master-apprentice sort of a situation, that until I can prove that I can also compose beautiful blog pieces, I should just stop annoying the master with too many comments. Truth be said, I’ve been always very eager to annoy my teachers in real life … and it’s even easier done in cyberspace.
    Yeah, and apologies for the annoying misspellings of my Polish, while we are at it!

  24. hey, thanks, Mockba,
    Don’t forget the super-hit У самовара я и моя Маша by Fanny Gordon, also originating in Poland and existing in Russian and Polish versions – Pod samowarem siedzi moja Masza.

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