The Sea Gull
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Screenplay byMoura Budberg (trans.)
Based onThe Seagull (1896)
by Anton Chekhov
Produced byF. Sherwin Green
Sidney Lumet
StarringVanessa Redgrave
Simone Signoret
David Warner
James Mason
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Edited byAlan Heim
Music byMikis Theodorakis
Sidney Lumet Productions
Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Distributed byWarner Bros.-Seven Arts (US)
Warner-Pathé (UK)
Release date
22 December 1968
Running time
141 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom

The Sea Gull is a 1968 British-American drama film directed by Sidney Lumet. The screenplay by Moura Budberg is adapted and translated from Anton Chekhov's classic 1896 play The Seagull.

The Warner Bros.-Seven Arts release was filmed at the Europa Studios in Sundbyberg, Stockholms län, just outside central Stockholm.


Set in a rural Russian house, the plot focuses on the romantic and artistic conflicts among an eclectic group of characters. Fading leading lady Irina Arkadina has come to visit her brother Sorin, a retired civil servant in ailing health, with her lover, the successful hack writer Trigorin. Her son, brooding experimental playwright Konstantin Treplev, adores the ingenue Nina, who in turn is mesmerized by Trigorin. Their interactions slowly lead to the moral and spiritual disintegration of each of them and ultimately led to tragedy.

Principal cast

Principal production credits

Critical reception

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described the film as "so uneven in style, mood and performance that there are times when you could swear that the movie had shot itself — though not quite fatally". Canby also mischaracterized the camera work, saying "Lumet's way with this adaptation by Moura Budberg is implacably straightforward. It plows ahead, scene by scene, act by act, in which there always is first an establishing long shot and then cuts to individual actors as they act and react. This kind of Secret Storm technique inevitably flattens out the nuances and the pauses that give depth to the tangled personal relationships. It also makes too literal the boredom and quiet despair that should hang over the Chekovian characters like an unseen mist. Most of the performances are excellent, but all of the actors seem to be on their own . . . Miss Signoret is simply miscast, if only because of her Frenchness. Her speech rhythms are so jarring that it's often impossible to understand her . . . As a result of the variety of styles, the movie turns into a series of individual confrontations that seem as isolated as specialty acts. Without the single dominating influence that should have been provided by Lumet, the play is fragmented beyond repair."[1]

Time observed, "The paralyzing problem with this film version of Chekhov's first major play is that it is far too dramatic . . . Any traces of wit have been pretty well destroyed by Lumet's lumbering technique. The actors perform as if they were all on the verge of a nervous breakdown . . . Lumet moves his camera incessantly to give the illusion of action, but uses fadeouts to duplicate the curtain falling at the end of an act . . . Most disturbing of all, [he] and cinematographer Gerry Fisher have shot the whole film in softly gauzed pastel colors, thereby reducing Chekhov's intricate dramatic tapestry to the sleazy cheapness of a picture postcard."[2]

Variety called it "a sensitive, well-made and abstractly interesting period pic."[3]

According to the Time Out London Film Guide, it is "basically an actors' film . . . sometimes dull and almost always unsatisfactory, despite excellent performances."[4]


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent (24 December 1968). "Chekhov's 'The Sea Gull' Brought to the Screen by Lumet". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ Time review
  3. ^ Variety review
  4. ^ "The Sea Gull: Time Out says". Time Out (magazine). Retrieved 4 January 2020.