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Anna Karenina: Movie Review

By Darren Bevan

Published: 2:29PM Tuesday January 29, 2013

Rating:

Cast: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew MacFadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: Joe Wright

It's to 19th Century Russia we go for this adaptation of Tolstoy's novel of love and passion, which re-unites director Wright and star Knightley for a third time.

Keira Knightley stars as Anna Karenina, who's married to Jude Law's respected Russian hero, Alexei Karenin. But she's unhappy with her marriage and accidentally starts to look elsewhere while on a trip. She garners the attention of Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson), who in turn is being pursued by Kitty (Alicia Vikander), who is being sought by Levin (Gleeson).

Despite her best attempts to avoid Vronsky, Anna begins a tempestuous affair which threatens her position as a socialite and the life of a married aristocrat.

When Karenin learns of the affair, he forbids her from seeing him - but she carries on regardless, risking the life of a social pariah and outcast...at what price, happiness?

Anna Karenina   is a film which has amazing production designs. Scenes change as if they were set in a theatre - with actors walking apparently backstage as the sets change around them. It's a dazzling directorial touch from Wright which screams originality and brings the gusto and energy of the life performance to the screen, while still maintaining its passage as a film. Lavish sets adorn the celluloid and enchant the eyes as actors pirouette around the screen - one scene sees an actor open the double doors to a stark white snowy landscape - and give the film a life it so richly needs and deserves.

Tom Stoppard has penned the screenplay - and while he's condensed down a 950 page novel to a 2 hour film, it still manages to drag a little in its second half as the enthralling visual work gives way to a drudgery of a story of depression and lost love.

And I have to admit, it was a struggle to care for Anna's predicament and ultimate fate in amongst all the sumptuous pomp of 19th Century Russia (which barely resembles Russia given the incredible amount of English accents).

It's not anything to do with   Knightley's performance as Anna Karenina   which is perfectly adequate at capturing the mix of conflicting emotions - nor is it anything to do with the sub plots of other versions of love, provided by the likes of a brilliant Matthew MacFadyen as the philandering Oblonsky or the moping Gleeson as peasant Levin. Some scenes crackle among the dour doledrums which permeate the final half of the film - a sequence where Anna finally reveals how she feels about Alexei sizzles with seething animosity and passion, something which is curiously lacking from the balletic courtship of Vronsky.

While   Anna Karenina   is highly stylised, it's ultimately an unmoving piece, devoid of connection as the lavish visual flair demonstrated so early on by Wright falls by the wayside and the whole thing gives way to a maudlin film about a thwarted passion, lacking in real tragedy and emotional bite.

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