Ilya Ilyich Oblomov has a 19th-century Russian soul. He has, in fact, one of the worst cases on record of Russian soul. When he thinks about the leaves budding, growing and then falling off the trees, he cries; and when he tries to think of a reason for getting out of bed, he can't. Oblomov, the horizontal hero of a satiric 1859 novel by Ivan Goncharov, contributed his name to the language, Oblomovism being roughly the idea that noblesse n'oblige pas. As he explains, "I was so gently reared, I never in my life had to put on my own stockings." And now a Soviet film has been made of "Oblomov," by Nikita Mikhalkov. There are certain problems in dramatizing the life of a man who never does anything. This film has several different approaches -- summarizing many of the events in storybook fashion, aided by charming drawings that dissolve into photography; lingering emphasis on the beauty of the landscape; and tiny comic motifs, such as the old servant who always drops the tray. The framework remains awkward, but the visual beauty alone makes the film worthwhile. It is also able to achieve an amazing amount of wry and touching humor. The film contains Oblomov's childhood memories, but in the main part Oblomov is 35, and his old friend Stolz is trying to rouse him to the indolence that passes for action in their class. (Stolz' own energy is the result of having a German father, who, on principle, pushed him roughly from the nest.) The motivation is provided by Olga, with whom Oblomov falls in love. It's a triumph of this courtship that he actually stays up all night one night, leaning his cheek against a teacup of hers and musing on his happiness. But although Olga returns his love, and their marriage would be suitable and approved by all, Oblomov soon sinks back into the state of thinking what-the-hell-why- bother, and he gives up the effort. Anyone looking for action should keep going, but for those who appreciate slow and gentle satire, the performances of Oleg Tabakov in the title role, Andrei Popov as his servant, Elena Solovei as Olga and Yuri Bogatyrev as Stolz are delicious, and the countryside is drowsily seductive.
OBLOMOV -- At the Key.