That’s Countess Sophya’s (Mrs. Tolstoy’s) objection to the “Tolstoyan” movement that had grown up around her husband with his encouragement. In THE LAST STATION, we see that Sophya understands her husband’s great novels better than his ideological disciples. We also see that those novels (and the old genius himself) stand somewhere in between Sophya’s selfish obsession with personal love and the the Tolstoyan (and Tolstoy’s own) political principles—directed as they are toward a kind of selfless or disembodied love of the people or humanity as a whole. The novelist says that love is the only answer, but without being as clear as he should be (or while being very conflicted) about what love is. Women, we learn, are more realistic and less puritanical than men, and the cure for ideological fanaticism in some young men is the loving seduction of a good woman. One reason WAR AND PEACE is so realistic, we also learn, is that Mrs. Tolstoy constantly reminded her husband of what a man or woman would really do or say in this or that situation. So this movie shows us what’s wrong with even the seemingly noble intentions of ideologues, as well as the crucial and perplexing distinction between the personal profundity of great literature and the silly and dangerous utopian literary politics of even many great authors. We also learn that evildoing ideologues especially want to win control over the moment of death—purging it of wives and priests and anything else that would compromise a kind of fake Socratic nobility. Tolstoy, we’re charmed to discover, was no Socrates; he, for one thing, actually loved and liked and was endlessly aroused in all sorts of way by his wife (who gave him 13 children and apparently 48 less-than-serene years). We leave the theater with a renewed appreciation for the highest purpose of private property. This movie deserves to win almost as many awards as CRAZY HEART, and if I were Oscar tyrant I would give the best actress award to Helen Mirren.
UPDATE: Too bad Helen didn’t win. BUT it was great to see Sandra Bullock and THE BLIND SIDE and real charity honored. It was also great to see real courage in an unpopular war honored with THE HURT LOCKER. And we can say the same about the redemptive themes of our country music with Jeff Bridges and CRAZY HEART and T-Bone and THE WEARY KIND. It was also refreshing to be almost completely spared politically correct speeches and to see AVATAR limited to techno-awards and so to see James Cameron stuck in his seat watching his ex-wife getting that director Oscar.