John Hurt, who plays ‘hurt’ roles

better than anyone else has been outstanding in many roles including as Winston Smith in Michael Radford’s intense Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

And add the 1979 BBC tv series (available on DVD; 225 mins., 3 parts) of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment to his outstanding performances of suffering characters. No one else could have caught the ironies, nuances, and complexities of Raskolnikov’s character and personality methinks; for example, he laughs crazily at the absurd thought of Napoleon killing the old pawnbroker!

Timothy West is outstanding as the magistrate Porfiry Petrovitch who, Columbo-like, plays games with the unstable killer.

Yolanda Palfrey is very convincing as the unbelievable Sonya, an earnest Christian/part-time prostitute whom Raskolnikov is closest to and confesses to.

The sleazy Svdrigailov played by Anthony Bate also steals some scenes, personifying that evil, selfish force which tries to corrupt Raskolnikov’s sister, mother, and him under the guise of false benefactorship.

This is, essentially, an actor’s film, and director Michael Darlow ensures very seamless performances from everyone down to the extras and his part 3 is especially engaging. Script-adapter Jack Pulman has also successfully captured the essence of Dostoevsky’s book, ideas, and its many conflicts.

There are many ‘big’ ideas in the production including the original author’s view of the great man as his own law and authority around the time of Dostoevsky. Mixed in also is Dostoevsky’s budding interests in modern criminal psychology, such as it was emerging in his age. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of things to think about and discuss with another fellow viewer.

Highly recommended.

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