The Luzhin Defence

Synopsis: Set in the late 1920s, The Luzhin Defence tells the story of a shambling, unworldly chess Grand Master who arrives in the Italian Lakes to play the match of his life and unexpectedly finds the love of his life. Discovering his prodigious talent in boyhood overshadowed by his parents' failing marriage, Luzhin's lyrical passion for chess has become his refuge and rendered the real world a phantom. Already matched up by her family to the very suitable Comte de Stassard, when Natalia meets Luzhin, she is drawn to the erratic genius and offers him a glimpse outside of his chess obsession. But it is a world he is not equipped to deal with and his two worlds collide to tragic effect.
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director(s): Marleen Gorris
Production: Sony Pictures Classics
  3 wins & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
109 min

Cattle. That's all

we are to them... cattle.

Why all the fuss?

Welcome, maestro, welcome.

Traveling through Europe

is becoming unbearable.

I was a prisoner in my compartment

as soon as we left Berlin.

The types

they allow to roam free.

Why you chose to travel ahead...

There must be kinder ways

of expressing independence.

Your letters were very cryptic.

Who have you seen?

No one.

In two weeks?

And we're next to each other?

I've taken a room at the back.

It's quieter.

Maestro, we're across now,

safe and sound.


You are the first of

our honored competitors to arrive.

Why is the hotel

in such a state of excitement?

It's the whole town as well. It's

the world championship chess tournament.

I don't believe you've had

your nose in a book for two weeks.

- Well, I've walked a lot too.

- No wonder you've made no friends.

There's an interesting young man.


This place is in fast decline.

So much is evident.

I'll have the soup and the fish.

Stop! Aleksandr!

Aleksandr, no!

Will you listen to me?

Come back!

Aleksandr, everybody

has to go to school one day.

It's the best possible school.

Fathers have to fight

to get their sons accepted.

And I fought for you.

I fought like a lion.

Your fellow countryman?

You've made a point of memorizing

the nationalities of the guests?

Only the interesting ones.

I'm Jean de Stassard.

Natalia Katkov.

You know that unfortunate man?

Why unfortunate?

Yes, perhaps "unfortunate"

is unkind of me.

Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin

could be anything he wants to be...

believe it or not.

That man is a genius.

Ah, Mama, this is Jean de Stassard.

So delighted.

I believe it's Comte de Stassard,

n'est-ce pas?

Would you do me the honor

of dining with us this evening?

I'd be delighted.

Mama, shall we?

Right through.

Right through.

Poor material, you see.

Don't put them back in there.

It seems very precious.

You should take more care of it.

It's for you.

Where is he?

Where is the scamp?

He's not hiding

from his Aunt Anna, is he?

He wouldn't dare!

Come back!


Come here.

He's just like his father.

I saw it in Kuragin's window. I just

thought, a memento of a wonderful day.

It's exquisite.

It's not a toy. Hmm?

Other guests are arriving.

Oh, I'm sorry. It's the fault

of your wayward sister.

As usual.

Come along, Aleksandr.

- Can you still see her?

- Just about.

- To the middle?

- Of course.

My mother has a very vivid imagination,

and nothing would please her better.

Nor me.

And I shall row back only when

I have found out everything about you.

Well, I was hoping for a much longer

and more interesting journey.

Your best loved opera,

most adored poem...

favorite symphony...

favorite walk...

most cherished and treasured object,

worst fear...

best landscape...

most deeply held conviction,

most inspired...

Nosiest boating expedition ever.

The honor of being added to the list.


I- I wanted...



Thank you for...

I was losing things.

Oh, please, don't mention it.

It was very kind of you.

Are you...

enjoying the resort?


- You're here for the tournament?

- Yes, I...

Well, how long

have you been playing chess?

I'm sorry. What a very dull question.

You must think me very...

Nine thousand, two hundred

and sixty-three days...

four hours and five minutes.

I stayed here once before...

at this hotel, as a child.

My parents brought me

to recover from an illness.

And there was a chess tournament,

Just the same as now.

Patterns repeating themselves.

Different moves, though.


I came third.

I was only 12 and sick...

and still I came third.

I'll show you where the hall was...

where they held the tournament.

Well, I promised my mother that...

Yes! Yes, yes.

Come on.

It was around here somewhere.

Three-storied white marble, nine arches,

nine tall windows, three fanlights...

six carved figures,

nine small windows in a square...

two domes, three spires,

two bell towers.

I was brought here for the air.

My father was unlucky.

He thought there would be

no interest in chess here...

and we landed

right in a tournament.

I'm well now.

Bit of rheumatism,

shortness of breath...

and last year I had the piles.

Some of the most respectable players

took part in it.

Ah, here... here we are.

It hasn't changed a bit.

Of course

it's a Jewish conspiracy.

It was invented by a Jew,

it's run byJews... it's a conspiracy.

You really think the radio

is that dangerous?

Whatever is the matter, Natalia?

You're being very dull.

I'm sorry. Am I?

The chess player.

He's probably locked away

from any distractions.

They say he will stay for hours

in a dark room, planning his moves.

Not on the board.

In his head.


Absolutely fascinating.

Aleksandr was so brave,

really so brave.

He sat right up front. Didn't you?

Not a squeak out of him.

And the speed of this thing...

I thought my heart was going to burst.

That wasn't fast.

We could've gone much faster.

That is so cheeky!

You had your eyes closed

the whole time.

I did not!

My dear,

whatever is the matter?

I want to learn.

What a thin little neck you have.

I can almost clasp it

with one hand.

Your money we live on.

All we hear about is your money!

All right.

This is your king.

He's the most important

piece on the board...

and he knows it...

but his moves are limited.

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Peter Berry

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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