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Anna is a young and elegant wife of Mr. Karenin, who is wealthy and old. She meets the handsome Count Vronsky. Anna and Vronsky fall in love with each other, and he comes to be with her in St. Petersburg. They are very happy together and make a great looking couple, but soon their happiness gets under social pressures. Anna is hopelessly begging Mr. Karenin for a divorce, but he wants to keep the mother of their child. She has another baby born from her lover Vronsky. Conflict between her untamed desires and painful reality causes her a depression and suicidal thoughts. Written by
Sean Bean was chosen by the director Bernard Rose to play Count Vronsky because Rose had seen him playing the role of Richard Sharpe in the Sharpe's series on British television - the director thought he looked natural in a period-military uniform See more »
Although the film claims to be set in the 1880s, the book must be set earlier than that because it was published in 1875. See more »
Which is entirely to be expected with a novel the size and complexity, I'm told, of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina", which I have not read.
I will blushingly admit that I first viewed this film mostly because of Sean Bean's presence. I found him a superb actor in the Lord of the Rings, and hoped to find more in his other works.
Truthfully, his portrayal of Vronsky feels somewhat light in this film; I attribute this to three factors: the severe compression of the novel (as happens with all film adaptations), the actual nature of the character itself, and the slightly boring task of playing mostly passion. Unlike other viewers, I found it very difficult to sympathize with Vronsky, and his repentance hollow. My heart melted somewhat, though, during his flashback to Karenina's corpse at the railway, and his brimming eyes as the train pulled away. Redeemed slightly at the very last moment.
Sophie Marceau is stunning as Anna Karenina; I found her enchanting from the start. Marceau plays the title lady with dignity, elegance, and grace; in her more intimate and emotional moments, she portrays Karenina's motherly and passionate sides with skill.
The inevitable flaws of adaptation show through in this film; there are numerous location changes, and multiple "quick" passages of time. Every event feels strung together by a thread, which they likely are, chosen for their narrative value. Yet it doesn't work, as the overall result lacks a palatable sense of cohesion. The love story of Karenina and Vronsky feels chopped and rushed, as does the tale of Levin and his Kitty -- which is too bad, since they are both the anchor narratives. The contrast of the two, however, plays well, and reminds me of the romances in Michael Ondaatje's "English Patient" (I'm well aware Tolstory precedes Ondaatje).
The greatest features of "Anna Karenina" lie in the atmosphere. Despite the out-of-place original accents of the actors, Russian is spoken skilfully, and the chosen music is beautiful and appropriately evocative of an older, grander time. and the lovely landscapes of Russia play a beautiful role in the background. The costumes and sets are breathtaking; the highlight is surely the ballroom scene, when all are attired for an evening "out" and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Waltz is playing.
While an excellent effort, "Anna Karenina" eventually feels like what it is: a cinematic adaptation of a novel.
I'd give it a 8 out of 10.
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