Title – Anna Karenina (2012)
Director – Joe Wright (Atonement)
Cast – Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Plot – A lavish and experimental adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s revered novel. Set in Russia in the late 19th century, the story focuses on Anna (Knightly) a beautiful socialite who is married to loyal but drab politician Karenin (Law). Anna’s safe and secure life is turned upside down however upon a visit to Moscow where she meets charming young soldier Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). Will Anna’s infatuation with Vronsky lead to not only the end of her marriage but the end of life in high society?
“I was eighteen when I got married, but it was not love.”
Review by Eddie on 20/06/2013
It’s hard to be overly harsh on Joe Wright’s take on this famous Tolstoy story, it’s also hard to heap to much praise on this eye wateringly beautiful tale. On one hand we have a unique and technically brilliant take on the story, much of the film takes place on a stage that changes with the story, at any moment the stage could be a dance floor the next a racing track. On the other hand the central and universal story of forbidden love feels about as empty as a stage after the curtains are lowered.
Keira Knightly has a screen presence; best portrayed in her few forays into modern day life, Bend It Like Beckham or Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World are prime examples of this. Her casting as the on the verge of being Bi-Polar Anna is the films major weak point. The story has become so well loved due to the romance between Anna and Vronsky, this adaptation never really makes their love a palpable one, largely due to the Knightly and Taylor-Johnson’s chemistry and performances and perhaps due to Wright being more concerned with his technicalities behind camera.
Wright is a very smart and obviously confident director (witness his beach tracking shot in Atonement for an example) and he clearly set out to do something unique and different with his work here. Karenina technically is a marvel but the story would have played out so much better in a normal dramatic film format, a format that allows the performances to take centre stage and not the “actual” stage used in the film. The audience has to look no further than the secondary love story between Domhnall Gleeson’s Levin and Alicia Vikander’s Kitty which takes place largely and thankfully in a stage free setting.
The scenes played out between these two young lovers strike the biggest impression on the viewer. Their relationship grows in a slight and believable way, eventually moving up to some strikingly believable situations accompanied with some impressive vistas captured on screen. If only this amount of reality struck in the main love story, Karenina may have become a real classic of the genre.
Overall there is much to admire in Wright’s film. Some fantastic costumes, art direction and cinematography make the film a joy for the eyes, Jude Law delivers a flamboyance free performance that is one of his best in years while Gleeson and Vikander on the strength of their efforts here have a good career ahead of them.
If only it was as good for the heart as it is the eyes, Karenina may have reached the same grand heights as Wrights sweeping camera.
3 theatre stages out of 5