Luzhin Defence, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1

This intriguing drama begins in 1929 at a luxurious hotel on Lake Cuomo in Italy. Eccentric Russian chess genius Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro) arrives to play in a prestigious chess tournament along with his most formidable opponent, a popular Italian Count (Christopher Thompson). Luzhin, dressed very shabbily and preoccupied with his own thoughts, is soon smitten by Natalia (Emily Watson), a wealthy young Russian woman at the hotel. After only a brief introduction, Alexander blurts out a marriage proposal and Natalia says she will thoughtfully consider it. While their romance progresses, Alexander fights for survival in the chess matches which continue over several grueling days. But Alexander’s long time mentor, Valentinov (Stuart Wilson), has sinister designs of his own and puts Alexander’s struggle for the chess championship into jeopardy. And the competition, along with unexpected developments and a surprise ending, makes for a suspenseful chess drama. This dramatic character study, with flashbacks to Alexander’s childhood in St. Petersburg, creates an outstanding cinematic experience.

The compassion and love which Natalia shows for the emotionally disturbed Alexander is inspiring, as well as the concern and love Natalia’s parents show for her. Both Natalia and Alexander are searching for love and meaning in their lives but, unfortunately, do not look to God for strength or guidance. Also, this spellbinding film has a major moral flaw. Alexander and Natalia’s love for each other, and their plans to marry, entice them into a sexual affair. They are shown making love a few times, covered up in bed, but no nudity is revealed. However, their facial expressions make it clear that sex is culminated. This pre-marital affair is portrayed as not only permissible but even desirable since their love is so deep. This is an unfortunate but frequent message in today’s films. At the same time, somewhat in keeping with the story era, it is refreshing that the genteel characters engage in no foul language or suggestive dialogue.

Preview Reviewer: John Evans
Sony Pictures Classics, 550 Madison Ave., 8th Flr., New York, NY 10022

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: Few times - Moderate (man injured by jump from moving auto, kidnapped man left in remote rural area, man jumps to suicidal death)

Sex: Few times (man /woman in bed, no nudity, but facial expressions)

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Few times (Excessive liquor drinking and cigarette/cigar smoking)

Other: Man has nervous breakdown, no mention of God or spiritual matters

Running Time: 106 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and adults

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