Under the Influence: Adaptation, Adultery, and Acceptance in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car


Paul D. Reich


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In A Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon defines adaptation in three ways: "an acknowledged transposition of a recognizable other work or works; a creative and an interpretative act of appropriation/salvaging; [and] an extended intertextual engagement with the adapted work."1 Ryusuke Hamaguchi's 2021 film Drive My Car embraces all three of Hutcheon's definitions, often in surprising and compelling ways. Those familiar with the works of Haruki Murakami can not only trace the influences of the titular story, but two additional stories from the author's 2017 collection Men Without Women. However, it is arguable whether Hamaguchi explicitly "acknowledges" the "transposition" of Murakami's "Scheherazade" or "Kino" in his film. Hamaguchi expands what is merely a referent text in Murakami's "Drive My Car"—Anton Chekhov's 1897 play Uncle Vanya—into an additional, shaping textual influence.2 This brings the total count of adapted texts in his one film to four. Viewers should not be surprised then at its nearly three-hour running time.


1. Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation (New York: Routledge, 2013), 8.

2. This continues Hamaguchi's longstanding interest in the Russian playwright. His 2018 film Asoka I & II includes a character acting in Chekhov's The Sea Gull.

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