Alexander Pushkin wrote a few prose pieces, among them the famous 1835 novella, “The Queen of Spades.” The main character, Hermann, is a hard-working young engineer wise enough to avoid gambling or chasing fairy-tales, but the story of Countess Anna Fedotovna and her three magic cards ignites his fiery imagination. He develops an obsession with learning the secret of the three cards and becoming rich. Hermann wanders the city aimlessly until he finds himself standing before the estate of the old Countess Anna Fedotovna herself. Anna Fedotovna, now 87 years old, she spends her days flitting between aristocratic parties, recounting her former glories, and harassing her young ward Lizaveta Ivanovna (Liza). Liza finds herself uncomfortably fascinated with the young engineer. Hermann and Liza begin to secretly exchange love letters, and his writing grows more passionate—and more unstable—with every day. Hermann is tormented by a choice: Liza and romance? Or the Countess and the secret of the three cards?
Notes from Julia Nemirovskaya, the director and script writer:
“In the script, I tried to keep every line by Pushkin intact. I even included epigraphs as random conversations. Yet one thing I changed. In Pushkin’s novella, the old woman is cold, egotistic, ugly and living in stale inertia. Pushkin was killed in a duel as a young man. He saw old people but never was one. A friend who is ninety-seven told me she never had as many erotic dreams and extravagant thoughts as after she turned ninety: old people retain the emotions, hopes and idiosyncrasies of the young — it is only their slowing bodies that aren’t as expressive. So I cast a South Eugene High school sophomore as the Queen of Spades. She has a lifeless mask but she often takes it off. The Old Countess becomes the same lively girl who captivated the imagination of the French King’s court. She becomes a symbol of blithe, young spirits living in prisons of aging bodies.