“The Last Station” (2009). Cast: Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Kerry Condon, John Sessions, Anne-Marie Duff, Patrick Kennedy. Director: Michael Hoffman. Screenplay: Michael Hoffman. Book: Jay Parini. www.sonyclassics.com/thelaststation/.
Getting a precise handle on the nature of one’s beliefs can be one of the most perplexing undertakings that a practitioner of law of attraction/conscious creation principles will ever attempt, especially when it comes to “the big issues” of life. The process can be further complicated when one looks to others for guidance and sees a wide range of interpretations on the issue in question; the plethora of possibilities can be overwhelming. And so it goes for the often-bewildered protagonists in the new historical melodrama, “The Last Station.”
Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) was one of the most revered writers of the early 20th Century. His success from works like War and Peace and Anna Karenina made him famous and wealthy. At the same time, the progressive thought in his writings made him the focus of a growing social movement known as the Tolstoyans, a quasi-spiritual sect that eschewed church and state and promoted concepts like nonviolence, vegetarianism and celibacy. Consequently, Tolstoy was widely celebrated—and heavily scrutinized—by prevailing religious and political powers, as well as the paparazzi and gossip columnists of the day.
For his part, Tolstoy relished the attention, even though he was more of a passive, unwitting prophet than an active advocate for the movement, especially since he didn’t always personally abide by its tenets. He had grown uncomfortable with materialism, for example, yet didn’t seem to mind living in a grand estate. And celibacy was something that almost seemed foreign to him, despite what his supporters believed. He preached that “love” was at the heart of all his writings and his thinking, but he often seemed unclear about exactly what that meant. So here was someone who was at the center of an emerging philosophical paradigm who wasn’t always sure what he believed himself.
Tolstoy struggled to get a handle on the nature of his beliefs, but such a daunting challenge often left the aging author beleaguered. What’s more, with his views open to such wide interpretation, Tolstoy’s philosophies were, accordingly, analyzed and expressed in myriad ways. But his contact with those doing the interpreting frequently left him even more confounded about what he truly thought, particularly regarding the nature of love. Nevertheless, they promoted their views, and vied for his attention, in their own fervent ways.
For instance, for Tolstoy’s fiercely devoted but high-maintenance wife, Countess Sofiya (Helen Mirren), love was a highly personal matter, very much tied to one’s relationships with one’s closest intimates and possessions. For Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), leader of the Tolstoyans, love was something everyone should freely give to one’s fellow man—even if reminding them of this voluntary act meant dogmatizing the belief and requiring followers to pledge their allegiance to this obviously more enlightened leader. For Tolstoy’s daughter Sasha (Anne-Marie Duff), love was something that could be expressed in both of the foregoing ways, but balancing them was a nearly impossible task. And for Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), Tolstoy’s personal secretary and the film’s de facto narrator, love was something he struggled with almost as much as his mentor, especially when trying to reconcile his thoughts with those of the lovely Masha (Kerry Condon), a free-thinking Tolstoyan whose independence, ironically, frequently ran afoul of those espousing this concept’s virtues.
However, the one most in need of getting a handle on the nature of love was Tolstoy himself. As he neared the end of his life, beset by the anguish of so many conflicting forces, Tolstoy desperately sought to make peace with himself and his beliefs. But the question for him was, would he do so in time?
“The Last Station” aptly illustrates the central theme of law of attraction/conscious creation thought—that we each create our own reality on the basis of our beliefs. It’s a concept that’s ripe with possibilities, too. Look, for example, at how many different interpretations the characters come up with in expressing a single notion like love, and they no doubt represent only a handful of the options. Each is valid in its own right as well, even though some are more palatable than others. This points out why it’s so critical that we get a handle on our beliefs in the first place so that we end up creating the existence we desire. Admittedly, as this film shows, the process may not always be as simple as we’d like, but that’s part of the challenge of being human and expressing such abstract notions in physical form. And with the wide palette of options available, it’s an undertaking we can savor, as long as we leave ourselves open to what’s possible.
“The Last Station” is a delightful little picture, full of warmth, romance, intrigue and gentle humor. It’s reminiscent of the many wonderful Merchant-Ivory productions, such as “A Room with a View,” especially in terms of its production values. The award-caliber performances by Mirren and Plummer are outstanding, especially in their scenes together, when their tremendous chemistry shines through. Admittedly, the writing could be stronger in spots, especially in confrontational scenes that often fizzle instead of pop, but given that the characters are themselves searching for insights through such conflicts, I suppose the lack of blockbuster scene-ending payoffs is somewhat understandable.
No matter what anyone might say, we always have choices available to us as we make our way through life. The trick is to identify the possibilities and the beliefs that underlie them. And the sooner we do this, the more enjoyable our lives can be, for when we reach the last station—the end of the line—the one thing I’m sure we’d all like to avoid saying to ourselves at that point is, “If only….”
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics (with an emphasis in law of attraction/conscious creation principles), free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to www.beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution, Sethnet Journal and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at email@example.com.