Ralph Fiennes opens up about his love of Moscow and the challenges of acting in Russian in director Vera Glagoleva’s latest film, based on a well-known play by Ivan Turgenev.
The actor, 53, stars in ‘Two Women,’ an adaptation of 19th-century playwright Turgenev’s ‘A Month in the Country.’
He told RT it was “extremely hard” acting in Russian, but that he was looking for “a different kind of filming experience” when he accepted the role of unrequited lover Mikhail Rakitin.
“I attempted to play the part in Russian, which was extremely hard, maybe foolhardy,” he said.
“But also, you know, working in another language and listening, receiving the lines of other actors in another language is completely different. But I just wanted to have the experience of working outside my own time.”
Speaking at a private screening of the film in Kensington, London, Fiennes described the play as a “beautiful, delicately wrought piece about human disappointment, needs, love, and anticipation of love, rejection, [and] jealousy.”
Fiennes lived in Moscow and Smolensk during shooting and said he “had a life there for a bit.”
“I had a wonderful time, I was looked after, I enjoyed working on the text that I had. You know, I love to walk in the streets and go to Gorky Park and go to the Tretyakov [gallery] and just walk and see and meet people. Go to Dom Knigi [House of the book] and Novvy Arbat and look at books. Yeah, I had a life there for a bit.”
He also opened up about his strong connection with Russian culture and people.
“Since I was young, I had a curiosity about Russian things. I don’t’ know why, I can’t explain it, don’t ask me to explain it. I just have it, and I’ve been there a few times now.
“And I feel very strong, lasting friendships there, in Moscow and some in St. Petersburg. So I’m keen to keep that connection, I’ve felt that it’s been inspiring to me and I value the friendships that I’ve made there.”
Glagoleva is one of Russia’s most prominent women directors having risen to fame after the success of her first film, the 2009 World War II drama ‘One War.’
She told RT ‘Two Women’ attempts to capture a “noble” period of Russian history.
“We have to remember Russia and know Russian history and the nobility of that time, and the sense of beauty it was imbued with. The most important thing is the link to Russian history and as for the feelings they resonate any time, they are the same whether its love, jealousy, hatred, betrayal, it’s the same at any time.”
Glagoleva is the first Russian film director to make an adaptation of Turgenev’s well-known play.
“There have been many adaptations, including in England, for cinema, but not in Russia - in Russia we only have TV adaptations.”
She said working with Fiennes was “real happiness” and described him as a “unique actor.”
“It was real happiness to work with Ralph Fiennes, just to be able to work with him. It was so unexpected for us that agreed to play in this film. He is an absolutely unique actor, a kind of otherworldly actor, with a kind of cosmic dimensions, as though he came to this time from the past. With his nobility, he has incredible manners and talent, so we are really grateful to him.”
Producer David Kelley told RT he felt a connection to the film because he was already familiar with the play, having seen it at the National Theatre in London in the 1980s.
“I was really fascinated to see that a director like Vera had decided to choose a very different subject matter on her second film and that, as well, it was based on a play that is very well known here.
“So I felt that there was some connection, well I felt connected to it. And they were starting to talk about starting to interest a certain UK actor, and I said that I would be interested, and once they had confirmed Ralph Fiennes I said, ‘Right, we can now go to various funders.’”