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This is quite an accurate adaptation of Tolstoy's 800+ page novel. While
there were obviously many changes and omissions, overall, the whole film
rang true to the spirit of the book, and I found it very a very satisfying
While most people are aware of the love triangle plotline featuring Anna Karenina herself, the book's main focus is on the life of Konstantin Levin, and what I think this film does so well is to provide more focus on that character and his relationship with Kitty than previous adaptations have done.
In addition, Anna's estranged husband, Alexei Karenin, is usually portrayed as a totally evil villain. His portrayal in this version of the story, though is done perfectly. While we may not appreciate his choices, we are also allowed to see his character in a multidimensional light, which helps make the story more complex and less of a simplistic soap opera.
While the sets and costumes all felt very authentic, I think that what was mostly missing from this were large scale sets to help us see the grand setting of Russia. We needed to see pictures of trains steaming across Russian countryside, we needed to see the inside of an Opera house or two, and we needed to see Levin struggling in the open farming countryside. Instead almost every scene is an interior shot, or a small scale street scene. It is a minor quibble, but without these scenes, I was left feeling that as good as it was, this film adaptation didn't reach perfection liked I hoped it would.
For years I put off ploughing through AK - for the same reason I have always
avoided so many Russian novels. You know the syndrome; you get so far and
then all the 'ovsky's begin to blur, you lose track of which character is
which and you give up by Chapter Two or Three at best in defeat at keeping
up with all the names. Or, like the Woody Allen joke, you speed read
"War and Peace? It's about Russia"
Well, inspired by the performances by so many cracking actors I plunged into the full novel. And what a delight. The drama is so good that it makes even the more melancholic passages come to life. With Stephen Dillane AND Douglas Henshall to delight in here, the show was on my watch list anyway. Some wonderful performances can be found in this version which is certainly one of the best transferences to screen of a complex novel (for one thing it doesn't shirk from giving equal weight to the story of Levin and Kitty - which in the novel are just as central, if not more so in the case of Levin, musing on the issue of religion).
This Masterpiece Theatre production gives life to Tolstoy vast and
ambitious masterpiece. It's a formidable task considering that Tolstoy
was often a deeply psychological writer and spent hours probing the
souls of his characters. That being said, the cast in this adaptation
do a marvelous job in conveying their character's profound and often
Tolstoy co-protagonists, Anna Karenina and Constantine Levin are both idealists searching for love and meaning. Helen McCrory is not an obvious choice for Anna but the character has suffered from being played by picture perfect actresses who have trouble conveying Anna's passion. Helen McCrory's is believable as a mature woman who is seemingly very comfortable in her skin and has the grace and power to make men fall easily in love with her.
Douglas Hensall plays Levin with gentleness as a sensitive, conflicted man plagued by doubt and his own inadequacies.He romance with Kitty is sweet and understated. His Scottish accent, beard, and awkward manners lend to his rusticism. However, as with any adaptation of Anna Karenina, much of Levin struggles with his own conflicted personal morality and faith are left out.
The best performance comes from Stephen Dillane as Anna's dour, principled husband. A man who believes in keeping his emotions in check, Dillane's Karenin is a man who's suffering his wife's betrayal and is conflicted between the desire to punish her and his love for her. In the novel Karenin is a homely man in his fifties, but here he is far handsomer and about 10 years younger which is helpful because it prevents viewers from believing that Anna deserts old, ugly husband simply because he is old and ugly.
Also of note is Mark Strong as Anna's bon vivant brother, Stiva, who, as in the book, remains likable despite being irresponsible and faithless to his wife, Dolly. Paloma Baeza, Amanda Root and Kevin McKidd also turn in fine performances and Levin's sweetheart, Dolly and Anna's lover, respectively.
The film's use hand-held cameras, quick cuts, and odd angles were at times interesting and at times, very distracting. Admittedly,it was nice to see a period film not shot in the very staid and static fashion of most period films. This production is full of movement: train chug by, people run upstairs, skirts billow, couples argue violently.
It has been said that readers should take Anna Karenina as a "piece of life" and this adaptation has an accessibility and realism and lacks that daunting glossy "period film" sheen. These people are people who could live in our time or any time
This new adaption of Anna Karenina was first shown on British TV in May 2000 as a four week mini series.Since the production is over four hours long,it is able to explore the main characters in detail.It doesn't just concentrate on Anna's(Helen McCrory)relationships with Karenin(Stephen Dillane) and Vronsky(Kevin McKidd),but also the relationships between Levin and Kitty and Oblonsky and Dolly. The film opens and closes with the character of Levin.Douglas Henshall is well cast as the idealistic Levin,haunted by his past.Paloma Baeza plays his wife Kitty as a pure and innocent girl who is also very kind and wise. Mark Strong is very convincing as the philandering Oblonsky and Stephen Dillane excellent as the faithful and dignified Karenin. The series was criticized in the UK for it's explicit love scenes.Personally I don't think they were that explicit.Also these scenes were necessary to tell the story in the twenty-first century. My only criticism would be that although Helen McCrory and Kevin McKidd's performances were very good,their characters seemed to lack chemistry. Overall this is an excellent production,which is well worth seeing.
Anna Karenina is one of the great novels of the nineteenth century that has inspired a great many adaptations for cinema or television. This most recent TV version (aired now in North America) is one too many. It is appallingly rudderless, maybe because it is increasingly more difficult to see a point in adding to the already high stack of versions. The acting lacks zest for the most part, the length or the treatment of this version does not do justice to the richness of the novel, and the sex scenes are so disingenuously artsy as to be laughable. More critically, the key characters of Anna and Vronsky are played by actors lacking both presence and chemistry. In my opinion, this version fares very poorly compared with the other TV miniseries, that of 1977 starring Nicola Pagett (Anna), Eric Porter (Karenin) and Stuart Wilson (Vronsky).
If you're craving an adaptation of Tolstoy's psychological and social
masterpiece, this version comes the closest to an overall assessment,
simply because it has the time to cover the all-important story of the
earthy Levin and his beloved Kitty; as in the book, Anna takes the
focus purely because she is the embodiment of a scandal, living totally
for her feelings, and living selfishly.
Having just finished the book, and then watched four different versions of the Russian epic, I do not doubt this version comes closest to the spirit of the book, even though Helen McCrory as Anna completely lacks the mesmerizing attraction of say, Garbo or Leigh--but both their films are Masterplot editions, and studio bound, although each have their own strengths--the MGM team to recreate lavish set pieces, and in the latter case, Vivien Leigh sparring with Sir Ralph Richardson, as a mannered, pompous, easily rattled husband.
In this 2000 Masterpiece Theatre version, David Henshall is a standout as Levin, drawing the viewer into the intensely introverted, thoughtful landowner, Tolstoy's cover for himself. When it comes down to it, the novel cannot be translated to the screen, even less so than War And Peace, but the director of this one did his best, even if his chosen leads are less than stellar.
I agree with the previous reviewer in finding that the main characters (Anna and her lover) though played by very good actors lacked both screen presence and chemistry. As a result the series seemed very tedious to watch and the love between them difficult to believe in - which in turn left me indifferent as to their predicament or its outcome. On the other hand, I found that the "Moscow set" stories and actors brought life to the series. In particular, Mark Strong (Oblonsky), Amanda Roots (Dolly), Paloma Baeza (Kitty) and Douglas Henshall (Levin) all gave lively performances. In the case of Henshall and Paloma Baeza the chemistry between the couple made the romance believable and moving. Henshall impersonated Levin's self-doubt and moral guilt particularly well. He made Kitty's delivery scene very memorable. His Scottish accent (which I normally like very much) seemed a bit distracting in this setting - especially in the scenes with his "brother". It reminded me of Billy Boyd in The Lord of the Rings!
Ranking this 2000 mini-series against the other Anna Karenina
adaptations, it's somewhere in the middle, with the 1977 mini-series
being the best version, with the 1967, 1935 and 1948 films also being
better, and the 2012 film being the weakest and the 1997 and 1985
adaptations also being ranked lower.
At just four hours, for such a mammoth and richly detailed story and with the many complex characters, this mini-series did feel too short, a minimum of six hours up to ten would have been more ideal. Adaptation-wise, it was a little better than expected considering the length, because the characters, central plot lines and all the important details and scenes are all here, but as a result of the too short length pacing feels rushed, one doesn't feel as immersed in the atmosphere or Russian history and society as they would like and characterisation is not quite as rich. There are instances where the camera work does get a bit irritating, being more showing-offy instead of being more intimate, and the chemistry between Anna and Vronsky sometimes could have been stronger and more developed, a few of the later scenes are a little cold and the earlier infatuation scenes a little hastily written.
However, most of the photography is very nicely done, being beautiful and atmospheric, while the period detail is sumptuously evoked with breath taking scenery and handsome costuming. The mini-series is hauntingly and sensitively scored, thoughtfully written with a good deal of Tolstoy's writing style coming through and classily directed. The story captures the tragic romance aspects with poignancy and the social drama with wit and tension, with a gloriously romantic ballroom sequence and a heart-wrenching suicide scene.
The performances are uniformly good, though all the roles have been better performed in previous adaptations. Helen McCrory is a heartfelt Anna, her passionate later scenes played with sensitivity and great emotional intensity. Vronsky has been problematically cast in about half the adaptations, but Kevin McKidd's interpretation ranks among the better ones, ideally portraying the passionate stalker and sympathetic lover aspects of the role without ever being stiff or stereotypical. Karenin, like in the 1977 adaptation, is much closer to the conflicted character in the book than to the opposite that he has been portrayed in, this conflict of doing things that highlight more of his weaknesses than his strengths is portrayed magnificently by Stephen Dillane. Douglas Henshall is a sensitive and layered Levin, though his Glaswegian accent does distract, while Mark Strong and Paloma Baeza also fare very well.
Overall, good if not great adaptation of a classic,that would have been better with a longer length primarily. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Anna Karenina is my all-time favorite book, and having watched a number of Russian and English-language adaptations, including the 2012 Joe Wright film with Keira Knightly, I consider this 2000 Masterpiece Theater version the most faithful and watchable of them all. While Helen McRory may not be as conventionally pretty as many other actresses who played Anna, her acting is spot on, and she's closer to the character as envisioned and described by Tolstoy. The other characters are cast very well, and few liberties are taken with the plot. Aside from the now-dated 1977 BBC miniseries, this is the version which spends the most time on the Levin-Kitty storyline, as it should be. The main reason I deduct 2 points is that parts of the series inevitably felt like a breeze-through the book's themes - as no adaptation can truly capture the depth of the original novel.
I've seen almost all the versions of Anna Karenina, and I'm trying to compare them with the book. So far, this version is the most true one to Tolsty's novel. It is very detailed which helps to express the true feelings of the characters the way Tolstoy created them. I didn't like the actors much, especially Anna, she's not attractive enough to play Anna. The perfect actors for Anna Karenina are in the 1997 version. Sophie Marceau made an excellent Anna, with her beautiful young flirtatious look, and the confidence with which she carries herself even when she's in despair.Helen McCrory just looks ill all the time, even in the beginning, she just doesn't have that presence that Tolstoy's Anna does. If the actors and settings of this movie were substituted with the ones from 1997 version, this movie would be absolutely perfect! Although it doesn't give the whole picture of 19th century Russia the way Tolstoy pictured it and the way the 1997 version does, this is still the most accurate version, and expresses the true meaning of the novel. Definitely recommended for people who haven't read the book, as well as those who have!
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