Issue 72 (2021)

Konstantin Khudiakov: The End of the Season (Konets sezona, 2019)

reviewed by Frederick H. White © 2021

konets sezonaThey were a military family who remained in the Baltics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, three sisters live in a quiet coastal town but sustain positive childhood memories of Moscow. The allure of the Russian capital seems to promise a better life, or at least an escape from this resort town. In the meantime, Lena (Iuliia Peresil’d) rents out rooms of their house, Anna (Anna Chipovskaia) performs nightly at a local jazz club and Vera (Iuliia Snigir’) sketches portraits in the central square. Predictably, several guests interrupt the monotony of the sisters’ lives and intensify their desire to leave for good. The End of the Season is the latest film adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play Three Sisters.

As one might anticipate, the three sisters live inertly, negotiating dissatisfying personal and romantic relationships. An oppressive daily routine is not alleviated by an old romance (Vera), a new romance (Anna) or marriage (Lena). None of them can overcome this collective inertia and realize the dream of returning to Moscow. Vera suggests that the town is too small, but the family responsibilities are tоo great to leave. Ironically, during Anna’s birthday party, a toast is offered to “the three sisters,” which is immediately, and vociferously rejected by Vera, Lena and Anna. They rebuff the obvious comparison to Chekhov’s play. In many ways, The End of the Season exhibits a similar “anxiety of influence” (Bloom 1973).

Recently, Liudmila Fedorova (2021) has written about film adaptations of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, suggesting that unrealized hope for a new, better future, enhanced by positive childhood memories, has offered a compelling thematic framework within which to interrogate the post-Soviet reality. The passage of time, with characters acutely aware that they are displaced and do not belong to this world, is common for these adaptations. Moscow (Moskva, 2000) by director Aleksandr Zel’dovich and writer Vladimir Sorokin, offers one such example, in which the post-Soviet space, and more importantly the capital itself, is completely void, which deflates the possibility of a better tomorrow.

konets sezonaFor this adaptation, director Konstantin Khudiakov, screenwriter Elena Raiskaia and producer Stanislav Govorukhin temporally relocate these three sisters to the lawless 1990s. An elusive killer (Sergei Koltakov), his stooge (Dmitrii Endal’tsev) and a buried weapon engender The End of the Season with aspects of a crime film. Will the New Russian (Evgenii Tsyganov), who rents the cottage across the street, finally interrupt the monotony of this sleepy resort town? In this way, Chekhov’s twilight era (1890s) is melded with the banditry of the next century. This film raises tantalizing possibilities, but offers few new insights into Russian criminality, the instability of the Yeltsin years or the issue of ethnic Russians living in the Baltics after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Arguably, an adaptation of Three Sisters allows for interaction with the cultural constructions of Chekhov the dramatist and writer, with the legacy of the Chekhovian method. The End of the Season seems to anticipate some of these opportunities but rejects comparisons as soon as they present themselves. In one instance, Vera is crying, and when Anna asks her what is wrong, Vera replies that she wants to go to Moscow, but then immediately laughs and rejects this response as cliché. More importantly, the film mutes the desperation of the 1990s, rendering it almost unrecognizable. This is not Chekhov’s “life as it is” or was. Most of the interpersonal relationships are uninspiring because the actors seem intent on avoiding the excessive theatricality that Chekhov disliked. The crime story offers few surprises—even though Chekhov’s gun is thrown into the ocean, not fired in scene two. The pacing of the film is slow, but not Chekhovian. Therefore, End of the Season seems to be overly aware of its precursor, offering an unconvincing criminal element in order to further subvert some of the audience’s fidelity comparisons.

konets sezonaImportantly, this is not the first adaptation of Chekhov for Khudiakov, who gained international recognition with Success (Uspekh, 1984), the story of a young director who produces The Seagull at a regional theater. Ironically, Success ends with the main character waiting at the station for the train that will take him back to Moscow, following the triumph of his provincial production. More poignantly, End of the Season was the last film production of Govorukhin, who died in 2018. The director of several late-Soviet cult films, he was also known for his perestroika-era documentaries that were highly critical of Soviet society. The soundtrack for The End of the Season includes several jazz standards, likely the influence of Govorukhin.

For two seasoned filmmakers, an adaptation of Chekhov’s play undoubtedly offered enticing possibilities for success. However, in the final stage of the “anxiety of influence,” as described by Bloom, the poet intentionally engages with his precursor. This intentionality is not natural, and the result is unoriginal. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for Khudiakov and Govorukhin. The addition of a criminal element that softens the bleakness of the 1990s only further confounds the filmmakers’ efforts to be novel, to free themselves from their predecessor Chekhov. Regrettably, The End of the Season is derivative in its adaptation of Three Sisters, despite its best efforts to acknowledge and then reject the original.

Frederick H. White
Utah Valley University

Comment on this article on Facebook

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. 1973. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fedorova, Liudmila. 2021. Adaptatsiia kak simptom: russkaia klassika na postsovetskom ekrane. Moscow: NLO.

The End of the Season, Russia,2019
Color, 95 minutes
Director: Konstantin Khudiakov
Screenplay: Elena Raiskaia
Composer: David Goloshchekin
Cinematographer: Aleksandr Kuznetsov
Cast: Andrius Paulavicius, Iuliia Peresil’d, Natal’ia Kudriashova, Sergei Koltakov, Gabriel Kuodite, Iuliia Snigir’, Anna Chipovskaia, Evgenii Tsyganov, Dmitrii Endal’tsev
Producers: Ekaterina Maskina, Stanislav Govorukhin
Production: Mosfilm, Vertikal

Konstantin Khudiakov: The End of the Season (Konets sezona, 2019)

reviewed by Frederick H. White © 2021

Updated: 2021