Circa 1910, Lev Tolstoy was the most renowned writer and thinker in Russia. The man was so worshipped that he spawned his own political and philosophical movement – Tolstoyanism – that won over scores of fanatically devoted adherents who followed Tolstoy in rejecting notions of private property, condemning sexual intercourse, and embracing what can be described as an idiosyncratic form of communism, with a somewhat creepy religious bent. "I don't believe that Tolstoy is Christ," says one particularly revolting character in The Last Station, a fictionalized chronicle of Tolstoy's last days. "Christ is Christ. But I believe that he is a prophet."
I've read enough Tolstoy to know that the guy was essentially a crackpot. The main problem with The Last Station is that the movie – which wants badly to portray the man as sympathetic – spends most of its running time madly equivocating on this score. Certainly its depiction of his politics does Tolstoy no favors: his worldview appears as illogical and fanatical as it apparently was in real life. At the urging of his advisors, the man robs his wife of 48 years of the rights to his bestsellers, which he is convinced "belong to the people." When asked why his family shouldn't profit from what is, after all, his work, he says that if peasants had money, they wouldn't spend it on footservants – to which his wife, Countess Sofia Andreevna Tolstoya, reasonably replies that they would probably spend it on liquor.