Anna Karenina (2012) Poster

(I) (2012)

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6/10
Irritating Format and Serious Miscasting
phil-cree17 September 2012
If your prime reaction to a film is one of disappointment there are usually some good reasons. My principal response to this version of a great and well-known story is one of irritation. The overblown theatrical format of the film gets in the way of character and dramatic development, to the point where you're aware of a director proclaiming "aren't we clever with the way we're staging this?" instead of admiring the straightforward and competent telling of a story. I'm not saying all films have to be constructed in a conventional manner, but when the form overtakes the substance something has gone wrong.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky is a piece of serious miscasting. Instead of looking like a great lover and sure temptation for wavering Anna,he looks like some feeble dandy with his foppish shock of dyed curly blonde hair which makes him look quite ridiculous. How on earth Anna could fall for such a creepy-looking guy is beyond most viewers I would submit.

Keira Knightley does the best she can, despite looking most of the time like she's attending a fashion shoot. The character of Anna requires portrayal of a tragic life which she doesn't quite achieve. However, the whole film fails to convey the grandeur of Tolstoy's vision, so she's let off the hook by the film's general levity and lack of substance.
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1/10
One Russian's take on the film
ti-swan12 September 2012
So, it is out – the film that so far has divided the opinions of the critics and audiences alike. A lot has been said about its theatrics and casting, visual effects and costumes. The trailer alone made me go to see it the first day it was released in London. Despite the misgivings about the casting of the main characters, I was hoping that the opulence of the setting, decorations and costumes would be just enough to make it enjoyable and compensate for any acting mishaps.

The film focuses is on the key relationships in the novel taking the bare carcass of the storyline. The result is a mechanical sequence of events, devoid of any depth and humanity and almost clinically cold. Many nuances of the relationships are not explained at all and, had I not read the book many times over, these would have been lost on me. All of the socio-political and ideological issues affecting Russia in the late 19th century, as well as the questions of humanity, faith, religion and the meaning of life, are largely left out. Not only this accentuates the oddly flat quality of the scenario but also, owing to the lack of context, makes certain scenes (e.g. Levin in the country) look oddly standalone.

As to the casting... Keira Knightley can be a delight to watch in the right context, i.e. when she can get away with being herself on screen (e.g. "Bend it like Beckham" and "Love actually"). However in the costume/period dramas she makes no allowances for the differences in social behaviours and mannerisms and ends up looking like a flirtatious modern girl at a fancy dress party. In the book Karenina's character is a sophisticated, mature, confident and sensuous woman of high society and rank but also a deeply kind, humane and down to earth person. It is the latter qualities that endear her so much to the fellow book characters and readers alike from the beginning and help us feel the tragedy of her situation so keenly later. Knightley's Karenina is an all-too-young, flighty coquette with no obvious emotional maturity and little sense of decorum gradually developing hysteria which left me torn between incredulity and laughter. I wouldn't normally comment on the physical appearance which should be incidental to a true acting talent but modest chest and bony back sticking out of the impossibly low-cut dress (for the 19th century) add little to the believability of the character. Vronsky, with those blue eyes, blond locks, stiff movements and bland facial expressions reminds more of a china doll than a dark, handsome, charming and intense character that Karenina falls for. Would she fall for this version of Vronsky? Doubt it and neither did I. As for the rest of the cast, the only characters that look vaguely believable (and that taken in the context of the rest of the cast) are those of Kitty and Dolly. Ironically Kitty becomes more so towards the end of the film, when Dolly loses it entirely owing to the dialogue with Karenina at the tea room.

Lastly I would like to touch upon a few details of costumes and styling which I find worth of note. I wish the costume designer incorporated the Russian fashions of the 19th century more faithfully. The façons presented with the backs cut out almost to the waist did not become fashionable (in fact, socially acceptable) until the 20th century. During the time portrayed in the film/novel they would have been scandalous. Lavish jewellery was, indeed, in vogue (although it is the understated elegance of choice so meticulously highlighted in the book that would have been true to Karenina's character). What Karenina wears in this film is unmistakably Chanel 21st century and bears no resemblance to the style or make of the time. I guess one comes to expect at least some product placements as part of the modern film industry and, in the absence of cars/phones/laptops etc in this film, one had to make the best out of what was available. Add to this aristocrats dressed like peasants (Karening in the ice-skating scene), rich landowner styled like a monk (Levin's hair throughout the film) then same landowner donned in a top hat not worn by the people from his "soslovie" (social stratum), Betsy and her jaundice coloured dress, Karenina at the theatre in what looks like a wedding dress and ermine stole, Karenin wearing his wedding band on the left hand (instead of the customary right in Russia), Karenina wearing multiple rings (Chanel-style, naturally) on both hands, - was someone confused as to the custom and decided to tick both boxes, just in case??! Classical waltz transformed into anything but, with peculiar hand movements that one critic described as "beguiling" but which looked suspiciously like mutual slapping of pesky insects and afforded a great deal more of physical intimacy in public than what was socially acceptable. Russian folk songs sang with strong foreign accent. At least no one in the film tried speaking with the Russian accent and for these small things, Lord, one should be grateful!

Overall, I wish I could call the film a drama or, at least, a parody on the 19th century Russian society but, given its omissions and disregard of the cultural or social realities, it is not. For all its pomp and pretentiousness, the film fails to make a single character or scene fully believable, forget about moving or meaningful, and the final result appears to be nothing but a parody on the original effort. Some critics called this film as "breathtaking". I agree, it is breathtaking, - breathtakingly awful, that is.
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1/10
Anna Karenina movie failure
cs_eniko7 January 2013
Unfortunately it is indeed out! I have been waiting to see this version of Anna Karenina forever. I have recently read this book, and this version is the worst production. I said OK, Keira as Anna, it will be difficult to watch, her being such an inappropriate actress for this role, but in the end all the other parts of the movie made me say this is a huge waste of time... If you haven't read the book it will be very difficult to understand what this movie is about. The actors are poor, except Jude Law, their accent is also bad. The fact that they turned it into a low-budget movie just makes me really upset. It is over-directed, it is a kitsch.
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5/10
Contrived, forced and pretentious, this movie is over worked
mark-palmos7 September 2012
It took me about an hour to stop being irritated by the movie's self consciousness, to sort of enjoy it... but the damage was done.

As viewers, we have no reason to believe in the love Anna finds. He is creepy and give us no inkling of why she might ruin her life for him.

Kiera isn't bad, just annoying, considering we have no empathy for her self indulgence. If her husband was worse, her love a lot nicer, and if we could feel electricity between them, it would be a different matter, but the fact is the movie is too busy being clever... it misses out on having a heart and soul.

The theatre gimmick got in the way, and seemed like a cheap way of having Moscow backdrops without actually traveling there.

5/10
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1/10
dreadful
anneharg14 January 2013
Not much to say except this film is arty farty pretentious rubbish. Was looking forward to watching an engrossing film of a good book but after the first 30 mins gave up trying to understand what the heck was going on. Only glad that I hadn't paid to watch it if I had I would have been strongly tempted to ask for my money back. It would appear that the producers think that the inclusion of Keira Knightly is enough to guarantee box office success how wrong can they be. Whoever came up with the format of this film needs their head examining it may appeal to the cinema snobs but as far as the general public is concerned it's a candidate for the raspberry award.
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7/10
An interesting take on AK marred by pretentiousness
miss_lady_ice-853-60870018 September 2012
I adore the novel, so I will be discussing Joe Wright's take on it and where it ranks amongst other adaptations but I will of course look at its merits as a film aside from the novel.

As a whole adaptation, this version falls somewhere in the middle. Even without all the metatheatrical trappings, it still took an interesting and valid approach to the novel, proving that the novel could be adapted until infinity and it would still be fresh each time. As readers of the novel would know, there is much more to it than Anna's affair. Tolstoy did not write vague types: he wrote fully-fleshed characters, and Tom Stoppard's screenplay acknowledged Tolstoy's style. Therefore I don't want to condemn the film outright because that would overshadow the things that it does get right.

Keira Knightley's version of Anna is not nearly as bad as you would think. She has the sense to restrain herself a little so that the many other elements of the novel shine through. She goes for the unsympathetic approach and it works. All her mannerisms that I generally find annoying- the schoolgirl smirking and rampant nymphomania- actually work for this role. This Anna takes Vronsky just because she can, and then ultimately regrets it. We can feel her frustration: she's young and wants to have fun but she's tied down to a stuffy older husband. In that sense, it's quite a modern interpretation, but not hideously so.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky was just miscast. If the novel had been about Anna seducing a schoolboy, he would have been great, but Vronsky is meant to be a dashing man. The styling is atrocious- he looks like a seventies Scandinavian Eurovision entry. Wright seems to have told some of the actors to act realistic and some to play up to the stylised setting. Taylor-Johnson plays the artifice so much that he just comes off as camp and sleazy. The scene where he is about to ride Frou Frou is like a production of Equus and there's a love scene with Keira Knightley that brought to mind an old advert for Philadelphia cheese. Their revelation of love is also poorly dealt with. Anna has some kind of fantasy dream where the two have an "erotic ballet" and suddenly they're banging away, presumably now in the real world.

Jude Law as Karenin. A bizarre choice when he could have played Vronsky five years ago and might even get away with it now at a push. However, he gives a performance that is probably his best. His Karenin is a bureaucrat through and through. Other adaptations have still made Karenin an attractive option. This Karenin is certainly not going to develop any great passion soon. We also see how he is manipulated by moral guardian Countess Lydia. If Law is trying to make a reputation as a serious actor, he's on the right path.

And what about all that pretentious theatre stuff? It seriously slows down the pace in the first third but once you get used to it, you can just enjoy the film. The ending is rather abrupt (no, that famous ending is not the last scene) but quite poignant.
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2/10
What Did I Just See
cmi-573-43703321 January 2013
I wanted to see Tolstoy but instead I thought I saw Mel Brooks. This movie could be renamed Springtime For Anna. Except it wasn't funny.

A great cast poorly used in a pretentious adaptation.

Jude Law did well with the material given. Keira Knightley, always a pleasure to look at, was miscast in this one. Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky reminded me of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.

The switch from stage play scenario to movie scenario only confused the plot.

Thank God Tolstoy is not alive to seek legal recourse.

I wonder how IMDb could give this film a 7.0.

Some nice visuals all that can be said in its defense.
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2/10
Tolstoi's Ana Karenina based on a digest for a middle school
swaminc25 November 2012
This new "adaptation" is nonsense. Tolstoy's novel is about a woman who belonged to the upper class that governed the Great Russia, the country extending from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, from Arctics to Afghanistan. Why is that Vonsky's mother, a princess by the title, is sharing a bench with senator Karenin's wife in a second class car where her son, price Vronsky finds them somewhere between third and the 4th raw? Their wealth allowed them to travel in a separate car and they often did! We were told from the screen that it was Russia of 1874. Well then how comes that Anna's "son" plays with train toys that run... on batteries? The cancan was normal for the working-class ballrooms of Montparnasse, but not for the aristocracy of Russian Empire exactly because it contradicted to aristocratic education and highly developed sense of taste. And amidst all of this nonsense we hear a bunch of "sub–Russian" "aj-lu-lu" songs that would be appropriate for the poor villagers but not for the Russian Aristocracy of this time. The movie appears to be staged in the backstage of a Café chantant. I was shocked to see that there is a hen sitting on the bookcase in Oblonsky's study. And why the Karenin's bedroom is situated in a huge hall with many columns in it? And his servants dressed as servants in bistro? Servants of aristocracy had to wear "la livrea", a livery, a uniform! I have impression that ladies jewelries were rented from a local Macy's store, while the entire picture was filmed in an abandoned provincial theater with broken walls and bad floor. And please notice that soup Marie-Louise is always with asparagus, so it is as inappropriate to mention this to the guests of Stiva Oblonsky's dinner. Extremely bad taste is obvious from about all scenes of the film. But so is the idea of this movie. We were offered just another attempt to present an adultère with a little bit attachment to un époux Russe. Unlike the world of commoners, Anna was not granted the freedom of choice because her divorce and remarriage was to be approved by the Most Holly Sinod, and the divorce lawyer, who was omitted from the film, was quite clear about this issue in his conversation with Karenin. This is why the drama had to be moved from the formal level to individual qualities of the people involved. And the only one who in my opinion reached this goal on behalf of Tolsoy was Jude Law, who was excellent as new Karenin lacking the common impression of a ridiculed husband. I understand that the "stamping" clerks from Oblonsky's office was added to the whole venture by Mrs. Wright and Stoppard as a token of their appreciation of Russian Avant-garde theatre, but it only enhanced the feeling of totally lost control over the flow of the drama. I am greatly disappointed. In my opinion, this film lacks good taste, understanding of Tolstoy's original idea, understanding of the characters, the time and circumstances of the drama, which together constitute a minimum requirement for a fair cinematography for classics adaptation. Don't even think to offer this thing to Russian viewers, because it will cause nothing but a belly laugh. Try to find and enjoy the Anna Karenina (1967) directed by great Aleksandr Zarkhi: this is a true piece of art, colorful and careful to every detail, the highest expression of a family drama without exits that explains its tragic end.
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1/10
Wasn't expecting a parody
Warren .9 January 2013
Seriously? I thought I was watching the wrong movie. It looked like Kevin Kline was one of the first actors. With the smirks and feeble attempts at humor it couldn't be the right movie. No offense to Kevin Kline, but A Fish Called Wanda vibe isn't what I expected in this movie. It felt as if I was seeing a play on film without editing out the set changes.

At Vronsky's first entrance (doing a good Gene Wilder impression) I'd had enough of this spoof.

Maybe this movie is okay if you haven't read the book, but having read it & loved it, this film is a joke.
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2/10
How I Felt During and After "Anna Karenina"
media_comments5 December 2012
Closed in and Claustrophobic: I felt I could breathe only when the scenes escaped outside of the theater stage and onto the snow covered train depot or the green fields where Levin was sowing grass, or where love was a lazy-day picnic on the greenest of grasses, but only briefly and only disappointingly, after again finding myself cramped and stifled in a hot sweltering and old 19th century theater.

The ball room scene was excruciating. The dances and dancers themselves reminded me of a mix of street dance, country and western, and some invented Tim Burtonesque "Danse Macabre" for the purposes of being unique, strange, and possibly "histrionic". The moves were stiff and unflattering and I was embarrassed to watch Anna and Vronsky clumsily make there way through the physical distortions that made their clothes appear ill-fitting and as though they both had two left feet.

I could not feel the same passionate love between Anna and Vronsky in this movie adaptation as I'd previously felt in reading the novel. The emphasis on cinematic style and surrealism kept interrupting my wish to re-live and enjoy the story. Further, contradictory to the memories of my mind's eye of the handsome and manly Vronsky in the novel, I came to see him in the movie as bit effeminate-looking, weak, and depicted as a vulnerable little mommy's boy.

I paid my ticket expectant and hopeful but at the end and as I exited the theater I found myself confused, disappointed, and ripped-off.

Anna Karenina will always be one of the greatest experiences in literature I've had the pleasure of. But next time, as surely there will be yet a "next time", I'll simply pass on the movie.

I simply cannot bear the risk of seeing Vronsky look like that again.
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