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Novel to Film | Levin's Doubts

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Levin's doubts
From the novel by Leo Tolstoy

excerpted from Part V, Chapter 2

On his wedding-day Levin, according to custom -- the Princess and Dolly insisted on his strictly conforming to custom -- did not see his bride, and dined at his hotel with three bachelors who happened to drop in. Sergius Ivanich, Katavasov, an old fellow-student at the university and now a professor of Natural Science, whom Levin had chanced to meet in the street and induced to come, and Chirikov, his best man, a Moscow magistrate and a bear-hunting comrade of Levin's. The dinner was a very merry one. Sergius Ivanich was in the best spirits and was tickled by Katavasov's originality. Katavasov, feeling that his originality was observed and appreciated, showed it off. Chirikov gaily and good-naturedly backed up every one else.

"There now!" said Katavasov with a drawl, a habit he had fallen into when lecturing. "What a talented fellow our friend Constantine Dmitrich used to be! I am speaking of one who is not with us, because he is no more. In those days he loved science. When he left the university he had human interests; but now half his talents are bent on self-deception and the other half toward justification of that deception."

"I have never come across a more decided foe of marriage than yourself," remarked Sergius Ivanich.

"No. I am no foe of marriage, but I believe in division of labor! Those who can do nothing else must beget offspring, and the others must help them to culture and happiness. That is how I look at it. There are hosts of aspirants who aim at mixing those two professions but I am not one of them!"

"How delighted I shall be when I hear of your falling in love!" said Levin. "Pray invite me to your wedding!"

"I am in love already."

"Yes, with a mollusk! Do you know," said Levin, turning to his brother, "Katavasov is writing a work on nutriment and..."

"Oh, don't confuse matters! What does it matter what I write about? The fact is, I really do love mollusks."

"But they do not prevent you loving a wife!"

"They would not, but a wife would."

"Why?"

"Oh, you'll soon find out! Now you like farming, sport. . . . Well, you just wait and see!"

"You know, Arkhip came to-day to say that in Prudno there are lots of elk and two bears," said Chirikov.

"Well, you'll have to get them without me."

"There you are!" said Sergius Ivanich. "Good-bye to bear-hunting in future! Your wife won't allow it."

Levin smiled. The idea that his wife would not allow it seemed so agreeable that he was prepared to forgo the pleasure of ever setting eyes on a bear again.

"All the same, it's a pity that those two bears will be killed without you. Do you remember that time in Hapilovka? What fine sport we had!" said Chirikov.

Levin did not wish to deprive him of the illusion that somewhere there could be something good without her, therefore he said nothing.

"This custom of leaving celibacy is not without its reason," said Sergius Ivanich. "However happy you may be, you can't help regretting your freedom."

"Now confess that you feel like the bridegroom in Gogol's play who jumped out of the window?" teased Chirikov.

"Of course he feels so, but won't own up," said Katavasov, and burst out laughing.

"Well, the window is open. . . . Let us be off to Tver. One is a she-bear. We can go straight for her lair. Yes, let's catch the five o'clock train! And leave them to do as they please here," said Chirikov, smiling.

"I am ready to swear I can't find in my soul a trace of regret for my freedom," said Levin, with a smile.

"Ah, but your soul is in chaos at the present moment that you are unable to find anything there! Wait till you've settled down a bit, then you'll find it," said Katavasov.

"No, I should even now have some consciousness that despite my feelings" (he did not wish in Katavasov's presence to use the word love) "and my happiness I was yet sorry to lose my freedom. But quite on the contrary, it is precisely of this loss of freedom that I am glad!"

"Very bad! A hopeless case!" said Katavasov. "Well, let us drink to his recovery, or let us wish that at least a hundredth part of his dreams come true. Even that will be such joy as was never seen on earth!"

Soon after dinner the visitors left to get ready for the wedding.

When he was alone, Levin, thinking over the remarks of the three bachelors, once more asked himself whether there was in his soul any of that regret for h is freedom that they had been speaking about. The question made him smile. "Freedom? What is the good of freedom? Happiness consists only in loving and desiring: in wishing her wishes and in thinking her thoughts, which means having no freedom whatever; it is happiness!"

"But do I know her thoughts, wishes, or feelings?" a voice suddenly whispered. The smile faded from his face and he pondered. And all at once a strange sensation came over him. He was possessed by fear and doubt, doubt of everything.

"Supposing she does not love me? Supposing she is only marrying me just to get married? Supposing she does not herself know what she is doing?" he asked himself. "She might bethink herself and only when she is already married find out that she does not and never could love me. . . ." And strange and most evil thoughts about her came into his mind. He became jealous of Vronsky just as he had been the year before, as if it had been but yesterday that he saw her with him. He suspected that she had not told him the whole truth. Suddenly he jumped up. "No, this won't do!" he said to himself despairingly. "I will go to her and tell her for the last time that we are now free, and that perhaps we had better keep so! Anything would be better than continual shame, misery, infidelity!" With his heart full of despair and bitterness toward every one, toward himself and her, he left the hotel and went to her.

He found her in one of the back rooms. She was sitting on a trunk and making some arrangements with one of the maids, sorting a pile of differently colored dresses that hung over the backs of chairs or lay on the floor.

"Oh!" she cried when she saw him, and her face lit up with job. "Why have you . . . ? Well, I . . . this is a surprise! And I am sorting my old dresses to give them away. . . ."

"Ah, that is very nice," he said gloomily, with a glance at the maid.

"You may go, Dunyasha, I will call you," said Kitty. "What is the matter with you?" she asked as soon as the maid was gone. She had noticed his strange expression, at once excited and gloomy, and was seized with alarm.

"Kitty, I am in torture! I cannot bear it alone," he cried in a despairing tone, standing before her and looking imploringly into her eyes. Already in her loving, truthful face he could read that what he was going to tell her would lead to nothing, but he felt that he still wanted to hear her disavowal.

"I have come to say that there is still time . . . All this business can still be put a stop to!"

"What? I don't understand in the least. What is the matter with you?"

"What I have said a thousands times and cannot help thinking -- that I am not worthy of you! It cannot be that you have agreed to marry me. Think it over . . . you have made a mistake. Think it well over! You cannot love me? . . . I . . . you'd better tell me . . ." he went on without looking at her. "I shall be unhappy, of course. Let them all say what they like: anything is better than the misfortune . . . Anyhow, it would be better now while there is still time!"

"I don't understand," she said, thoroughly frightened. "Do you mean you refuse . . . Why stop . . .?"

"Yes, if you don't love me."

"Are you mad?" she exclaimed, flushing with vexation; but his face was so piteous that she suppressed her vexation, and throwing the dresses on a chair sat down closer to him. "What are you thinking about? Tell me everything."

"I think you cannot love me. What could you love me for?"

O God, what can I do? . . ." she cried, and began to weep.

"Oh, what have I done!" he exclaimed, and kneeling before her he began kissing her hands. When the Princess came in five minutes later she found them quite reconciled. Kitty had not only assured him that she loved him, but had even given him, in answer to his questions, the reasons why.


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Levin's doubts
From the screenplay by Allen Cubitt


Int dining room. Moscow. Club. Night.
Oblonsky sits back laughing

The following is a drunkard conversation matched by drunkard camerawork, which switched between Levin, Oblonsky, the table, and the booze!


Oblonsky: You can say goodbye to evenings like this! You can say goodbye to bear hunting.

Levin: Why?

Oblonsky: Because she won't allow it. Women never do. You'll have to forgo the pleasure of ever, ever setting eyes on a she-bear ever again.

Levin: You don't understand true love.

Oblonsky: No, no, I probably don't.

Levin: True love means preferring one person above all others. To the exclusion of all others.

Oblonsky: And how long must this preference got to last? A week? A day? A couple of hours?

Levin: For life.

Oblonsky: Oh God, really? Goodbye freedom.

Levin: If I lose my freedom, then I do so happily.

Oblonsky: The happy prisoner of love!

Levin: I don't want my freedom, I want intimacy. I want to wish her wishes and think her thoughts.

Oblonsky: Oh, don't start all that! You're a farmer, not a poet. What are her thoughts? She's read your diaries. You haven't read hers. Have you? Think about it. She's a closed book, my friend.

Ext Scherbatsky's house. Moscow. Night.
SFX: Door ring
General background of party going on. Levin walks up to the house and rings the bell.


Levin: (shouting) Kitty!

Kitty comes to the door and opens it, they stand outside together.

Kitty: The house is full of guests. What are you doing here?

Levin: I've come to say that there's still time.

Kitty: For what?

Levin: We don't have to do this.

Kitty: Do what?

Levin: We don't have to get married.

Kitty: Oh my God, I don't believe it. You're trying to back out!

Levin: No, no, I'm not. But think it over . . .

Cut to Kitty

. . . . (OOV) if you don't love me.

Kitty: I don't understand.

Levin: (OOV) How can you love me?

Kitty: For heaven's sake!

Cut to two shot

Levin: I don't know why you love me. . . . What is there to love?

Cut to CU on Kitty

Kitty: I love you, because I understand you. Because I know you need to love someone. And I'm happy that someone is me.

Cut to CU on Levin

(OOV) Because the things you love are the things I love.

Cut to Kitty

Kitty: . . . . Because I trust you with my life. I know why I love you, it's you who's not sure.

Levin: (OOV) No, no I am.

Cut to CU on Levin

Levin: If you are.

Cut to two shot

Kitty: Must you put me through this?

Levin holds her close and hugs her


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Levin's doubts
From the film


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