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According to an earlier review, this movie is supposed to be "just plan
awful." The writer probably meant "plain" instead of "plan," and that
misspelling may be an indication of the quality of the review.
There is much to be said for the viewpoint that this film version of Tolstoy's novel, starring Sophie Marceau, must certainly be one of the greatest versions ever produced.
Tolstoy himself lived to see just the beginning of the era of the motion picture and was said to have been fascinated by the possibilities the new medium presented. If so, he would no doubt have been quite astonished at the beauty and the extraordinary quality of this rendition of his story about Anna Karenina. The production values are among the highest there could possibly be. The costumes, the cinematography, and the sets unlike earlier versions, the film was shot on location in St. Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia are at such a remarkable level that the action almost does appear to be really taking place in the Czarist period at the end of the nineteenth century.
As for Sophie Marceau's mild French accent which the above-mentioned reviewer found so irritating it is quite likely that many upper-classes Russians of the period actually did speak with a French accent. It was not Russian but French that was the dominant language among the Russian nobility and aristocracy of the time for some, French was in fact their native language, since many of them never learned to speak Russian at all, except perhaps a few words and phrases they could use to communicate with the servants.
What is perhaps most remarkable of all in this film is the utterly believable way that the behavior of the of characters is presented. Their motives are suggested with great subtlety, not in the somewhat simplistic tones of the (nevertheless still magnificent) MGM version of the film that starred Greta Garbo seventy years ago. Anna's husband is not a monster, for example, in this new version, but a rather pathetic, right-wing government bureaucrat with obsessively strict moral values. Moreover, the portrayal of Anna's behavior throughout the film, and especially in the final scenes, is a masterpiece of sympathetic psychological insight and understanding.
This film is a for the time being, anyway neglected classic.
Of all the versions of the Tolstoy novel which I have seen (two with Greta Garbo, the deplorable one with Vivien Leigh, another with Jacqueline Bisset), this is the one that really reflects the scope and social observation of the book. The careful direction and art direction, the St.Petersburg backgrounds, as well as the exquisite cinematography, make this movie a real feast for the eyes, with magnificent plastic compositions and lighting in every shot. The abused Tchaikovsky music was used discreetly. Sophie Marceau plays a very young Anna, and makes her credible all the time. Sean Bean and James Fox, as Vronsky and Karenin, are admirable. And even if the screen play by director Bernard Rose is a little too literary, the complete story was told, and the result was the best Anna Karenina the screen has offered.
I disagree that this was terrible. I am a big time historical movie and costume buff, so I watch everything I can get my hands on and there is hardly a period drama I have not seen. I have also read the book. While the story line of the movie doesn't necessarily follow the novel, I am still sucked into it every time I see it. I found their chemistry wonderful, the costumes lovely and very period accurate, the music and cinematography fabulous. I have seen it over a dozen times (bought the DVD) and STILL never get bored. Sophia Marceau was a perfect choice in my opinion. She is classically beautiful, and the right combination of all the elements that made her character.....chaste wife turned star crossed lover, strong, confidant woman melted to vulnerable young girl. I adored Sean Bean also. I found him totally believable, and I fail to understand how anyone even remotely interested in period dramas could fail to appreciate this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I saw this movie I thought it won many awards, but when I found out that it didn't. I was thoroughly disappointed. How come it didn't? It has amazing cinematography, costumes, performances, etc. I do not understand why it was quite under-rated. It should have won at least an award for best costume design. Sophie Marceau was stunning, She was plausible as Anna Karenina, she really did her best as a woman who gave up everything to be with her frustrated love Vronsky (Sean Bean). Sean Bean envelops himself into the role very well. The costumes were flashy as well as the scenery. It was wonderful since I could really see all seasons in Russia like spring, Fall, Summer, especially winter. It was amazing to see the credible snow and cold wind. It really deserved some awards, but anyway What can I do? The best part of this movie was its tragic ending as Anna Karenina commits suicide by falling onto the train tracks. It certainly made me think. It's worth watching. Don't miss it. 8/10
Now, perhaps I'm out of my element writing a review for "Anna Karenina"
without having read the book, but I shall do so regardless. Many criticised
this film because it did not follow the book, or omitted one thing or
another. That is all well and good, but what feature-length film *can*
capture the entire scope of a novel the size of "Anna Karenina"? I watched
the older version with Greta Garbo and--though I cannot imagine why--it
never truly caught my attention. This version, however, captured me from
the start. And I am usually the first one to complain about what is wrong
with a remake in comparison to the old version. A paradox,
This film first caught my eye because of Sophie Marceau. I admire her immensely as an actress, having seen her in several films, both French and English. Then, I recognised Bernard Rose as the director of "Immortal Beloved", a film I had enjoyed some months before, mostly due to a magnificent performance by Gary Oldman, some of the most glorious music caught on film.
The music, I can probably cite as one of the main reasons I loved this film. I can think of no better love theme for a doomed romance like that of Anna and Vronsky, than the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony. The use of "Swan Lake" at various points was also wonderful, and the interplay during the scene at the ballet held me mesmerised. Vronsky speaks of Anna being trapped in her marriage as the Prince seeks to capture the Swan Queen. Perhaps I'm just rambling, but somehow that connected.
On the whole, the performances were good. Sophie Marceau was perfectly believable as Anna, and some of her scenes sent chills down my spine, though my favourite performance of hers still has to be "Firelight". Sean Bean had me worried for a few seconds, with a mannered reading or two, but improved quickly as the film progressed. Another reviewer pointed out that Vronsky was meant to be a shallower character than Anna, and now that I think back on it, I believe that is very true, and that Sean Bean's performance reflected this superficiality. Mia Kirshner was adequate--I didn't particularly care for her--but Alfred Molina and James Fox both gave fine performances (a standout for me was when Anna wrote Karenin from Italy and Karenin wavered before refusing to let her see Sergei).
However, equally on par with the actors, was the setting. Very few films, I have to admit, can look *so* beautiful. Especially the ballroom scene, with the seemingly neverending hallway of gilded doors, the location photography was spectacular. The costumes were stunning, and the cinematography made even snow seem alive. Even if you do not care for the story or the acting, this is a film to watch for visuals.
Thus, I believe that this film deserves far more credit than it received. I, personally, loved it for varied reasons, but I have to admit that what truly captured me was the way Bernard Rose can take an average script and transform it into a beautiful film using visuals and music. Very few directors take the time to put music and image together if they use classical scores (my favourites would be David Lean and John Boorman), and I believe Bernard Rose should be watched in the future. I should love to see what he would do with a film set in late 19th century Italy, when opera was at its height!
***1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all: It's a great story. Incredible, how the author Leo Tolstoi
describes the feelings of a woman who gave up everything (marriage, child,
social reputation) for her love and commits suicide when she thinks that she
will lose this love too. But the film is horrible.
Yes, the pictures are good, but first of all the choice of Sophie Marceau
was a terrible mistake. In the book Anna is, before she meets her later
lover Wronski, a well situated lady with no personal conflicts in her life.
She is self-confident, and other women come to her to get good advices for
their problems with the husband, the children and so on. And then Anna meets
Wronski, and her life shatters like glass. They fall in love madly, but this
love is for both the worst thing that ever happens to their lives. It ruins
both of them. Sophie Marceau isn't able to play this self-confident, cool
woman. From the beginning she seems to be a nervous teenager, and so the
drama of the story can't be developed.
There is also no passion between her and Sean Bean. I only felt very, very bored. It's a pity, that this great story was ruined, because when I heard that there would be a remake of Anna Karenina, I was very curious, because the book is one of my favourites. Unfortunately I have to say: Go and read the book! It's much better!
I'm not sure how this movie slipped past me, as I try to stay on top of
the period movies that come out. Nonetheless I caught it on one of the
Encore channels last night, and I'm glad I did. Visually this movie is
incredible! The cinematography could not have been much better, down to
small details such as Levin "mowing" in the fields with the scythe in
perfect rhythm with the workers.
As much as I like the film, however, I'm disappointed that Sophie Marceau's portrayal of Anna was not more passionate. On the whole I thought her performance was pretty good, but I agree with the comments above that she could have exhibited a much more involved and emotional presence in the face of a love that she could not resist. Ditto for Sean Bean, although he was somewhat better at it than Sophie. It's a situation where one fervently wishes that the actors were better than they were, because you know that it would have made the movie a "10." Both Bean and Marceau did provide some excellent glimpses into the souls of their characters, but only glimpses. One would wish for more intimate looks into their motivations and their respective desolations. I was not at all put off by accents of the actors. So Marceau has a mild French accent...French was the dominant language of the Russian court up to the Revolution, so it would not have been out of place at all.
The story of Levin and Kitty fares better, if only because of the stellar performance of Alfred Molina. Offhand I can't think of a more underrated actor (save perhaps Ron Perlman). Ms. Kirshner was fine as Kitty, although her journey from infatuation with Vronsky to love for Levin was given short shrift.
Overall I loved this movie, but I just wish it had been two marks better.
This was surprisingly good. I'm not that much a fan of the Romance
genre, if truth be told, but I'll make an exception for this one. The
film is carefully crafted. Every emotion, every dialogue enhanced the
overall tone of the film, slowly but surely escalating in its momentum
up to its tragic climax.
Sophie Marceau was brilliant. As was Sean Bean. I wasn't quite sure if they would be able to possess the kind of chemistry needed to pull this off, if truth be told, considering how they (in my opinion) seem to be of different temperament artistically (Sophie being more sensitive as seen in Braveheart and Marquis, while Bean is more explosive). Nevertheless, it worked out fine although, ironically, their relationship seem to be more believable whenever they fell out of odds with each other. :)
I have to say, I was dragged to see this one by my girlfriend and to
say I was sceptical about it's likely entertainment value would be a
Unfortunately for my pride, this film completely blew me
I won't dwell on the story, as it is apparently very well known (except to heathens such as myself), but I do know that it did capute love and denial and sadness in a way I've never seen before.
The cinematography is also fantastic. Watch out especially for the dancing scenes in the ballroom and the horse racing.
If all period costume movies were like this, then I'd abandon Sci-Fi altogether!
While the production design, photography costumes etc are all quite
spectacular this is only half the book. That it is not really the book
which may seem a normal quibble, but all the other details which are so
rich in the original, is lost here and what is left is a melodrama.
One reason is that the length of a great novel cannot ever be crammed into a film of normal endurance. The problem then becomes one of audience engagement and also character motivation because the characters are so attenuated in the film. The rich back histories and the social settings and discussion of current ideas is also fundamental to a Tolstoy novel and here it is only hinted at in parts.
Some level of implication is good in a film, unlike a novel, but in this case it is reduces a novel to a text message.
The result is not a bad film, but is unfortunately superficial. The task the filmmakers set is enormous - too big for what is accomplished. It's solution is not in this medium and at this length: a multi-part TV series would be have been better.
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