By Ty Burr
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:50 AM EDT

The Luzhin Defence

B+
type
  • Movie
genre

A passionate love story probably wasn’t what Vladimir Nabokov had in mind when he wrote his third novel in 1930, but director Marleen Gorris (Antonia’s Line) has nevertheless turned The Luzhin Defence into a beguiling tale of l’amour impropre, set in a faraway Masterpiece Theatre land of high-stakes chess between the wars. The novel plays out almost entirely in the mind of Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro), a shabby prodigy so focused on the 64-square grid that the real world fades into shadow. The movie, by contrast, homes in on Luzhin’s fiancee (Emily Watson), who struggles for control of her near-autistic knight in a larger game against his malignant former tutor (Stuart Wilson). The Italian settings are exquisite, the acting sublime, and if the whole doesn’t approach the bristling crossword cruelty of Nabokov, it’s still fine candy for mind and eye — and Turturro brushes against deeper mysteries as a spookily lost soul who sees patterns instead of people. B+

Episode Recaps

The Luzhin Defence

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • PG-13
runtime
  • 106 minutes
director
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