Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Anna Karenina


Even though this is the 25th time that Tolstoy’s classic novel has been brought to the screen, I think this is the first version that I have ever seen.  The latest rendition has been re-written by leading playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, and I gather it sticks closely to the original plot even though he’s squeezed it into 2 hours. (Thank God!)

Its late 19th century Russia and aristocratic Anna Karenina rushes off to St Petersburg to help save her brother Oblonsky’s marriage after his wife has caught him philandering with their children’s governess.  Whilst she is there Anna meets a very dashing young Army Officer, Count Vronsky, who was courting Oblonsky’s pretty sister in law but he soon loses interest in her the moment he claps eyes on Madame Karenina. Anne, stuck in a loveless marriage to Alexei a very cold fish of a Government Minister, cannot resist his charms and they promptly embark on a passionate affair that soon becomes the talk of polite society.  Cuckolded Alexei cares more about his reputation than anything else andso agrees to let Anna, now pregnant with the Count’s child, keep her status in society as long as she promises never to see Vronsky again. She however is prepared to risk anything for true love.  Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

The movie brings director Joe Wright back together with his favorite Leading lady Kiera Knightly, and the pair are no strangers to period dramas having made both ‘Atonement’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ together.  This time Wright really shakes up the anti by setting so much of the proceedings in a theater although it is not performed as a play.  He uses the stage and backstage areas and designs them to look like particular locations and then the camera just morphs into the matching outside location.  It is stunningly clever and beyond brave, but the downside is that it does take quite a while to absorb and actually engage with movie as a whole because of it.  Nevertheless, Wright should be applauded for trying, and almost succeeding.

abThe latter part of the movie really kicks in though 
and you start to appreciate what a real cinematic treat it is.  Miss Knightly is the best she has ever been and really quite luminous, and if you a regular reader of this Blog then you will know from my usual take on her, that this is high praise indeed.  Her Anna is remarkably beautiful and the camera loves her, but we are never convinced that Vronsky actually does, as there is such little chemistry between the two. He incidentally is played by a grown up Aaron Taylor-Johnson (‘Nowhere Boy’, ‘Kick Ass’) whose talent grows with his maturity just like his name has grown since his May/December marriage.
Wright peppers his cast with a strong cast of some wonderful Brit Actors that include Jude Law, Emily Watson, Kelly MacDonald, Olivia Williams, but it is the comic turn of Matthew McFadden as Oblonsky that really shines.  That said the real star of this Russian romp are undoubtedly the sumptuous gorgeous costumes that steal every single scene, and if they don’t get an Oscar for Designer Jacqueline Durran, then there is no justice in the world.   So if you have patience to stick out the confusion of the first part, then this is about as good as costume dramas get. 

And now I have finally seen an Anna Karenina flick, I can’t wait to now see Miss Garbo’s take. And maybe even Vivien Leigh too. Watch this space.



Posted by queerguru  at  19:26



Genres:  drama

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