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About the film
Anna Karenina is a 2012 film adaptation of the book of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The film has a run time of 129 minutes and a classification of 12A.
Set in late nineteenth century Imperial Russia, aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina sets off on a mission to save her brother, Prince Oblonsky's marriage after having an affair with his housemaid. During her travels, Anna meets a cavalry officer, Count Vronsky whom she has an instant attraction to. Anna is married herself but in a cold and unloving relationship with her husband. At first Anna wants nothing to do with Vronsky but soon enough cannot hide her attraction to him. The pair embarks on an affair which becomes both life altering and devastating.
Keira Knightley as Anna Arcadievna Karenina
Jude Law as Alexei Karenin
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Alexei Vronsky
Kelly Macdonald as Daria "Dolly" Alexandrovna
Matthew Macfadyen as Stepan "Stiva" Arcadievitch Oblonsky
Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Dimitrivich Levin
Ruth Wilson as Princess Betsy
Alicia Vikander as Katerina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatsky
Olivia Williams as Countess Vronskaya
Michelle Dockery as Princess Myagkaya
Emily Watson as Countess Lydia
Holliday Grainger as The Baroness
Shirley Henderson as Meme Kartasov
Bill Skarsgård as Captain Machouten
Cara Delevingne as Princess Sorokina
What I thought
Anna Karenina is one of those films that instantly looked beautiful from the trailer which is why I wanted to see it. However, once watching the film, it soon became apparent that I wasn't about to watch what I was expecting. This film has a very strange way of telling the story and it appears to be a play within a play at times. We see characters changing out of costumes, set changes and props being moved around. The whole production makes the film seem as though we are sat at the theatre, or watching the cast trying to prepare for their roles. The set changes are always quick and often at the beginning of the film, going from the Karenin home one minute to a massive ballroom or workplace in the next. The stylisation of Anna Karenina is not for everyone and I found it very distracting and confusing at times, especially as within the second half of the film, it is used more sparingly.
However strange some of the style may be, the sets within this film are quite stunning. Set during Imperial Russia, there are fabulous views of frozen lakes while contrasting with the lush and extravagant ballrooms of the aristocracy. Much of the fabulous scenery within the film was in fact constructed on the stage, instead of using external locations. I found it fascinating that making a film could be done in such a way and for it to still look amazing. Ok, it may have looked even better had authentic and real locations been used instead but the style and originality is definitely there within this film.
Kiera Knightley plays the leading lady Anna Karenina. She is in a loveless marriage but has managed to gain a son she loves very much out of it. Acting ability aside, Knightley looks absolutely stunning in this film as she does in any other period drama. Karenina is seen in lavish and expensive gowns which Knightley does not let overpower her. Playing the role of a woman searching for something more in life, Knightley does a really good job. She plays the role of confused and unsure socialite with perfection but then, she is known for these kinds of roles now as she has done a fair few. As Karenina meets love interest Count Vronsky, she is torn between her life at home with her husband and son and a life of excitement and true love. Knightley manages to let her character convey emotions with the smallest of glances. Never does she completely give anything away but there is always a look her in eye saying there is something more going on inside her head.
Supporting cast members include those such as Jude Law as Anna's husband, Alexei Karenin, and Matthew Macfadyen as Anna's brother. Each secondary character has their own plots going on throughout the film but each is obviously overpowered by the main story between Anna and Count Vronsky. Law does exceptionally well as Anna's unloving and seemingly uncaring husband. He is extremely cold towards her and doesn't show emotion at all. No wonder Anna wanted something more out of life than a convenient marriage. While I don't normally like Law, I am beginning to warm to him more and more with each film I see him in recently. Although he plays an unlikeable character in this film, I strangely did end up liking him. Macfadyen provides some humour in his role as Stepan, which is a huge contrast to Karenin and the dramatics of Anna and Vronsky's relationship.
However, while some secondary characters were great, others were not given enough time to develop. The story of Anna Karenina and the subplots within it is a lot to fit into a two hour film so there had to be a bit of leeway somewhere. For me, the richness and diversity of other characters helped to make this film more interesting than it could have been. I would have loved to have seen other plotlines developed more and for other characters to have received more development and screen time. While the story of Anna and Vronsky was obviously the most important aspect of the film, I think that it could have cut down on the time spent with the two in order to make time for other things.
Anna Karenina is one of the classic love stories and within this adaptation, it sees a bit of reinvention. I'm not overly sold on the way in which it was done however and the styling definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea. However, the story is a good one and well-acted throughout.
Director Joe Wright reunites with muse Keira Knightley for the third time (previously in Pride and Prejudice, and Atonement) in yet another costume drama. Based on the Tolstoy novel of the same name, Keira Knightley stars as the titular character, who enters into a tragic love affair with count Vronsky in 19th Century Russia high society.
Nominated for four Academy Awards, Joe Wright's take on the movie was risky. Set in a dilapidated theatre in London, the artistic move made the movie feel overall claustrophobic, but certain sequences executed an exciting choreography of dynamism and cleverness that made it work.
The pace was moderate and the drama heightened as the movie progressed, with the ending tragic yet cathartic. I liked that there are elements of symbolism and colour, especially during the iconic first dance between Karenina and Vronsky- this scene was the highlight of the entire movie, capturing emotion, sensuality, judgment- it was sublime, but after this, it lost substance.
The controversial tale was brought out through the movie in certain exchanges between Anna and Karenin which really show her struggle to break free of her loveless marriage. The character of Anna and what happens to her is really interesting. Is she right to seek true love?
Keira Knightley- Anna Karenina
Jude Law- Karenin
Aaron Johnson- Count Vronsky
Matthew Macfayden- Oblonsky
Also stars Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and Michelle Dockery.
Although missing out on the major awards circuit, Knightley does manage to at times bring a drama that we have not seen from her before, but ultimately resumes a pouty, coy look which is evident throughout her jerky, slightly awkward performance. That said, she wore the beautiful Oscar winning costumes with pride and carried this movie and the rest of the cast elegantly.
Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' is an interesting and different approach to the story which is beautifully artistic and stylish, but unfortunately feels claustrophobic and at times, confined and suffocating, much like Anna's loveless marriage. Whilst the movie manages to convey passion and drama, it is relatively mild. Watch this for the artistry, for the costume, but certainly not the substance that you would otherwise get from the original Tolstoy novel.
The story of "Anna Karenina," a tragic love story heroine who becomes the victim of her pursuit of love and passion, has been told so many times before that you have to admire the person willing to take on the task of yet another retelling - and that man is Joe Wright, a director who is no newcomer when it comes to lavish romantic dramas, as shown by his fluid, top-notch productions of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement." And it's a brave and beautiful adaptation. Wright have obviously spent a lot of time and careful planning in bringing Leo Tolstoy's sizable novel to the screen, and his efforts to inject as much originality as possible are admirable to say the least, although his ambition towards style and glitz sometimes overshadows the film's another important aspect of serious storytelling.
For those unfamiliar with the novel or previous film entries (those starring Greta Garbo or Vivien Leigh are excellent, the one with Sophie Marceau is not), "Anna Karenina" kicks off in 19th Century Russia where Anna (Keira Knightley, in her third collaborative effort with Wright), married to a senior official Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), feels trapped, unloved and bored with her life. A chance encounter with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) changes that however, as the two start a passionate affair that has predictable but equally devastating consequences mostly for Anna.
Of course, there are far more characters in play here. And it is advisable to brush up on their names, who they are, and how they're all related in each other's lives before you embark on any adaptation of Tolstoy's novels. We have Anna's brother, Oblonsky (the superbly sly and hilarious Matthew Macfadyen), who's cheated on his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), whose younger sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) has her eyes firmly set on Vronsky who leads her on only to chase after the more beautiful Anna instead. Oblonsky's best friend, Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) has always loved Kitty from afar, and after his wedding proposal is rejected by Kitty who in her youthful naiveté thinks she can do better with Vronsky, he retreats into his country estate, choosing the more peaceful, less complicated life of a farmer, choosing to stay away from the stuffy, bourgeois lifestyle of the aristocrats.
Because when it comes to people of a high social standing, reputation is everything; a delicate, powerful factor that can be destroyed within seconds, thanks to the gossipy female loudmouths who spread news like wildfire. They love a scandal, which is why Anna's latest endeavour is the talking point between society women, much to Karenin's dismay. Law, behind his beard and spectacles that scream boring, conservative and dull, actually gives a very intelligent performance as a man who needs to keep things together not just for the sake of his child, but also for the way others perceive him. He may appear as coolly detached from Anna from the get go, but once he sniffs out a potential scandal, he is very direct in addressing where his true concerns lie. He's neither a hero, nor a villain, and the stoic Law's quiet, stern portrayal is spot-on. The other man in Anna's life, Vronsky, played with much less self-centred, egoistical aggression here by Taylor-Johnson provides a good balance. Vronsky is everything that Karenin is not, whether that comes off as a positive or negative characteristic. Vronsky is usually seen as the villain in the novel, but here he comes off as a less hateful guy having to deal with some wrong choices he made.
Knightley in the central role is simply divine to look at as she is put through emotional turmoil. As a helpless woman facing impending doom, her subtlety in all the emotions she conveys, whether it be joy, anger, frustration, pain, she does so with utmost grace and style, always dressed in the most incredible costumes. She is wholly convincing as the confused woman in search of what she conceives to be true happiness in a society not willing to accept such thinking, eventually forced to choose between "true love" and a stable life. She never overacts the most dramatic scenes of the film, something she has done remarkably well in previous period dramas, and it would appear she has almost perfected such skills. She may not have that tragic essence Garbo did, nor the sharp gazes of Leigh, but she brings enough of her own assets to the table, shining in such a daunting, iconic role.
The much-needed originality in this adaptation comes from Wright's technical accomplishments. In a very bold move, Wright starts off by wanting to "stage" his version of the story. Yes, in the beginning we see many, many rapid set changes, extras changing out of their costumes and moving various props to change the scenery. One minute we're in the sumptuous home of Karenin, the next we are transported to a sumptuous ballroom full of well-dressed individuals, and to pile on with the scenery we get an opera house, a lake frozen over, fields etc, constantly reminding us of the period, perhaps not necessarily focusing too heavily on the country Russia per se, but more so in creating obviously fake but still stunning sets.
Due to the director's initial heavy focus on the stage production aspect of the film, the pace moves forward at a light and brisk rate. Characters are introduced, they disappear, they reappear out of nowhere, only to be out of the scene again, much like a fully functioning play. The smooth flow of narrative in the first half is exquisitely and expertly handled, gripping the audience with the fascinating story whilst never losing the stylish touch. But what "Anna Karenina" lacks as it progresses is consistency. Starting off so well naturally builds up expectation, something the second half cannot match. As the drama becomes darker, the characters become more complex, Wright is too busy telling the two main different strands, one involving Anna, Karenin, Vronsky, and the other contrasting subplot with Levin and Kitty, that the marvellous technical achievement that kicked off the film quite simply goes out the window. It seems to forget the one crucial original element of the script, and the narrative only occasionally comes back to the stage setting whenever convenient for the plot. And when the stage design is suddenly thrust upon the audience, it can become quite the distracting, bloated element, already in the midst of juggling so many characters.
A lot of characters whose depth could have been fascinating are unavoidably lost whilst trying to condense the novel into a two-hour film, and although some are played by superior actors (Olivia Williams, Emily Watson, Kelly Macdonald, Ruth Wilson all make brief but memorable appearances), very little is actually shown and their interactions with crucial players remain minimum. And despite the powerful score that crescendo to its finale, the ending doesn't feel as powerful or dramatic as it should. But perhaps that could be down to the original source material itself. Because Anna essentially can be described as a thoughtless, careless and sometimes selfish individual who forgot her place, decided to venture out on her own, and didn't quite manage to succeed in the end. Is there something deeply moving about that? Maybe not. But despite the film's obvious flaws, thanks to his reliable cast and visionary new look, Wright creates something unique, and one that shouldn't be passed off as "just another remake."
My Friend invited me to the cinema on Friday as a busy mum of two I rarely get to go out so I even though I didn't have any idea what the film was about I thought why not.
The film is an adaptation of the novel by Tolstoy unfortunately I have not read the book prior to seeing the film however I am off to the library to get a copy.
This is a story of love, jealousy, passion and infidelity amongst many subjects all based in Russia in the time of the tsar
Anna she is the wife of karenin who is a major political figure in Russia a member of aristocrat high
society a socialite
Karenin Husband of Anna a major political figure a member of high society and 20 years older than Anna
Count Vronsky the cousin of Anna's friend and the lover of Anna
Dolly Anna's sister-in-law
Stefan Anna's brother
These are the main characters originally the novel was written in serial instalments and the film follows this by introducing as if on a stage each new sub plot is introduced as through a theatre change of scene and whilst I cannot comment on how well the film follows the original book .
The film cleverly introduces the scenes and shows the sub plots very well and whilst I wish to go off and read the book this film does allow you to enjoy the experience and I believe tells the story beautifully it is a film that afterwards you continue to feel it and gain more from it.
I have never seen a film that is more along the lines of a theatre production it is a lavish opera ballet theatre in a film and is very clever as it leads you along I honestly forgot that kiera Knightly was ever wielding a cutlass she portrayed the tragic Anna to perfection and Jude Law who I have only see play daft characters took on the Karenin and showed us a serious Russian politician to perfection.
I found this a thinking film a film that required your concentration and one that left you thinking more afterwards, it is extremely clever the scenery and sub plots and costumes are superb a film one feel that you should be drinking a nice wine and having nibbles as opposed to popcorn and coke! I will be watching again when released on DVD a very enjoyable literature treat.