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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
In Czarist Russia, Anna Karenina falls in love with the dashing military officer Count Vronsky and abandons her husband and child to become Vronsky's mistress. Tragedy ensues when Vronsky chooses his military career over Anna. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
LOVE is the perfect title for this hacked-down adaptation of Tolstoy's mammoth novel ANNA KARENINA. It was made to cash in on the popularity of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, fresh from their box office triumph in FLESH AND THE DEVIL earlier the same year. Like virtually all of Garbo's silent films, much of the screen time is devoted to watching the great tormented Swede abandon herself to love, suffer for love, contemplate love, lose love, die. It is interesting to compare this version of the novel with the one made eight years later in which Garbo played opposite Fredric March who, while less dashing and handsome than Gilbert, did give a fine performance as the impetuous and essentially cruel Count Vronsky. In the latter film Garbo is less attractive due to the clash between the curly coiffure she is given and the strong planes and features of her face. She even looks like a male in drag in some scenes. But in LOVE she is beautiful and feminine throughout. The clinging 1920's-style dresses help, even if they detract from the authenticity of a story that is supposed to be set in 1870's Russia. Gilbert was one of the best actors of his era and the talent shows here. He is also a magnetic screen presence and one can understand why audiences in 1927 flocked to see these two together.
The scenes of mother-son tenderness between Garbo and Philippe deLacy do indeed seem incestuous as others have pointed out, but so do the scenes between Garbo and Freddie Bartholomew in the 1935 version. I think it was just Garbo's way of expressing love on screen; you see her perform the same kind of nuzzling in other movies, whether the attentions are being given to a man, a woman or a child. I disliked both endings, but at least Garbo was ravishing in the happy one. And remember, Garbo was just shy of 22 when she filmed this, yet she is believable as an older woman. She had a face that could express any age.
This movie cries out for a re-scoring. The print shown on TCM is marred by what sounds like muffled applause from time to time.
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