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There have been many cinematic versions of Leo Tolstoy's epic novel
ANNA KARENINA but for this viewer none matches the creative excellence
and power of this very different version. Tom Stoppard wrote the
screenplay for this adaptation and the work was directed with eye
toward timeless artistry by Joe Wright. There will be some detractors
who feel that cinema is cinema and stage plays are stage plays, but
Wright's decision to combine the two works extraordinarily well. The
flavor of Tolstoy's story and mood are maintained and yet made somehow
more vital by Wright's electing to place this story as though it were
happening on a theater stage (including catwalks, backstage, audience
and theater boxes etc.) The story is theatrical and Wright embellishes
the last of the Czarist days with great aplomb.
The story needs no summary: Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley more beautiful to behold and brilliant in acting than ever) is married to Alexei Karenin (Jude Law in a tour de force acting role) and is happy in her station with her slightly cool husband but very warm young son. Then quite unexpectedly her eyes meet those of the wealthy Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor- Johnson in a career making turn) and their love is immediate. The flirtation is enhanced by some of the most beautiful waltzing choreography on film. We are in St. Petersburg, Russia and divorce is something only a man /husband can initiate so as the love affair reaches a point of no return Anna must decide whether to bear the shame of a divorced woman or just be the mistress of the incredibly handsome Count and remain married. In contrast to the Anna/Vronsky duet is the passion of the country lad Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) for the aristocratic Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and throughout the story the two forms of love are paralleled. Anna becomes pregnant with Vronsky's child, an act that quietly infuriates Karenin as it makes Anna's affair public - a condition no one can tolerate in that society - and subsequently results in Anna's leaving her beloved son after she gives birth to the daughter belonging to Vronsky: Karenin will care for the child. The climax comes with Anna's infamous suicide and the story ends with all loose ends tied.
The exceptionally strong supporting cast includes such fine actors as Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Ruth Wilson, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery, and Shirley Henderson. The luxuriant costumes are by Jacqueline Durran, the cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey, and the glorious musical score is by Dario Marianelli. A Stunning Film.
I once asked Dustin Hoffman if he had any favorite movies or actors. He
replied that he had favorite performances. Referring it seemed, to much
smaller periods within a film. There are several shots where Keira is
picture perfect, but this role was not for her. This performance ruins
our memory of her former success under Joe Wright. Especially her
first, which is her most unforgettable. Black Swan did the same for
Natalie Portman, another of our cinema sweethearts. Which I walked out
Her part here needed to be much deeper and more complex, but instead it was shallow and trite. The way Anna was portrayed was out of place. Whether by acting or writing I don't know. Either way it was a mistake. All of the male leads, four at my count, complemented each other perfectly and were well done. Some surprising cameos among the women.
I didn't see it at the theater after hearing about the stage within the movie technique, which has actually been done in a few good movies. I didn't see it as a problem. The recent film Anonymous about Shakespeare began this way, as do others based on plays of his. Julie Taymore in her solo attempt to put Titus on film blended styles while injecting modern means and mechanism into near ancient settings, and pulled it off very smartly. Both of these were good films and highly worth watching. I point this out as there were many complaints about it in other reviews.
It isn't the blending of the modern and the ancient, or the use of multiple styles in itself that is a problem. It's more a question of whether it works, and how well it was done. I believe here it does. Peter Greenaway excels at this kind of film making. We sometimes forget how shallow we have become as a society. What a melange and patchwork our culture is. Are we surprised it shows up in our films.
There are some moments of clarity in the movie that are almost bewitching. While others present motion picture as painting or poetry. Some very good transitions. Overall I believe it to be a very creative effort. It is a blending of choreography, stage, and cinema with a desire to please the eye and entertain our emotions. It was only the moral ambiguity and modern sensibilities between the two lovers I found contemptible. Both of them being out of time and out of place.
Love is the great conquerer of lust. As lust is the great destroyer of love. I believe the author intended this to be about the second. It is a mistake to think movies from books should be the book. Just as it is wrong for an amoral people to replace the beliefs of a moral people . . with their own. Especially when borrowing or telling their stories. One of the great enjoyments for all lovers of period pieces is going back to a time when people knew morality and understood what it was, and most agreed with it. Whether or not they actually were moral is entirely . . another story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This version of "Anne Karenina" is certainly more interesting than
previous ones, and as it has happened before with films by Wright, he
has gone into a sort of interesting mix of realism, and I'm not quite
sure what to call this, "getting inside the visual media"... At first,
I was a bit dumbfounded, as he kept rolling walls, switching scenery in
the middle of a scene. It was a bit unsettling, but then, I thought it
was a matter of style, and because he does keep a decent amount of
period set decoration and costume, I got used to his approach.
The story is predictable, and the execution is the key here, with some very good acting, especially Law, as the husband who must adapt to the impulsive ways of his wife, a woman who is torn by the newly found lust/love she feels for her younger lover. Anna is a puzzling character because at first she seems to be a staunch defender of the establishment, and by the end, all signs of reason and sanity are gone. She has surrendered to pure emotional impulses, and the end is nothing but tragic. The saddest part is how her actions are just replications of what her brother did previously, but the consequences for her are much more severe, and not even her own gender offers any sympathy. We have seen this before in "The House of Mirth" and other works of that era. This time the film gives a more dramatic mix, throwing some innovative visuals, a lush, old-fashioned music score, and great turns by Johnson and Knightley.
"Karenina" has two stories going on, and it might be a bit confusing to see their respective functions, as the world of "Anna" is falling apart by her actions, the world of this other couple survives the initial shock of what some might consider "lust". Whatever it might be love can both a restoring and a destroying force, and to a point, honesty does play an important part in the mix.
This society is interesting. Institutions are celebrated, deviations are punished accordingly, and sides are switched most conveniently. Everyone recognizes that you have to play by the rules, and these can sometimes be flexible, but compromises must be reached, and Anna is not willing to listen. It gets so bad that her few supporters eventually must spell it out for her, and there is no going back. Soon madness sets in to force her into a final solution.
In the end, the film is a new retelling of a century-old problem, you just have to make sure you play by the rules, and you had better watch your step. Emotions have no place in a society that is inflexible and unforgiving.
Director Wrigh's view of his audience is one of an assumption of
intelligence and the craft with which he has used the best elements of
both theatre and cinema styles is a credit to him and the actors who
make this film so great. These are easily Knightly's and Law's best
film performances and the acting of almost the whole cast is extremely
good. The role of Levin played by Gleeson is brilliant.
The book is actually my favourite book of all time and this is the first adaptation which I believe has captured the spirit of the film. The tragedy of Anna, the sympathy that one feels for the Karenin and the pureness of Levin's love for Kitty are all evoked beautifully.
In some ways the audience is made to work with the film to really get the most out of it but the magic drew me in very quickly and the claustrophobic nature of imperial Russian society was clearly demonstrated within the overall metaphor.
Is this film going to be appreciated by fans of the Expendables - probably not! However I am a fan of many films including the Transporter series and whilst Anna Karenina may not have many thrills it is good honest story telling at one level and a great film to make one think. BTW this is my first review I have written but as may be surmised it moved me.
I thoroughly disliked this version of the story. The very presentation, mostly within one theater and stage setting was distracting to say the least. The brief interludes of actual scenery were lovely but far too few and short. Some of the dialog was somewhat muffled, resulting in misidentification of a few characters, initially. I can't imagine whose idea this was but I'm not surprised to read of the fine actors who turned it down after reading the concept. The characters who elicited an emotional reaction from me were Kitty and Constantin; those actors were so real that I was moved to tears by the depth of their facial expressions and vocalizations. I felt the nudity was totally unnecessary and the depiction of smoking just silly. I looked forward to this remake but was sorely disappointed and cannot in all good conscience recommend it to anyone.
I have not seen so many bad things in a film for years! How is it possible that such a piece of art is destroyed in two hours? How hard was it to follow the story? Worst casting in the history of film, period!!!! Never have so many gorgeous actors been turned ugly! It is unwatchable, it makes me sick. Levin is THE WORST casted actor I have ever seen and I am shocked and appalled and disgusted ! It is horrendous....It is offensive to the people who have actually read the book, to the book itself, the characters that made history and above all the genius himself, Lav Nikolajevič Tolstoj. Music doesn't suit the film, the actors don't suit the parts, the idea itself is beyond horrific, the setting, the idea of the idea, there are not enough bad words to describe this.... I've heard stories about this film and I didn't want to believe them because of my love and respect for Matthew Macfadyen, Keira Knightley, Jude Law and many others who worked on the film, but sadly I was let down by these great people who disappointed me beyond words... This is a sad world we live in, where anyone can make a film..... This kind of butchering should be considered a crime against ART!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was very looking forward to this movie, although I was prepared for the probability that it will be difficult to transfer human emotion and social circumstances of the time which Lav Tolstoy so vividly described. But, the final result made me ask myself was this supposed to be a parody? Not one grain of the brilliants was transferred to the screen, the casting was wrong, especially for the two main characters. Keira Knightley is a wonderful creature, but she definitely does not represent sophistication of Tolstoy's character, and as for the role of Vronsky...once you see him appear, you will know why I believed it was a parody. The sad conclusion to my review is that much has changed from Tolstoy's time, and there are no more happy families,but event though we can't grasp the full concept of his Anna Karenina, the directors should have made an effort to present it for what it really is-a great human inner conflict and tragedy, and not a mindless adventure of a silly "school girl-like" character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
These are the perfect words to describe this movie. Although I admit at
first when I saw the movie, with all theater background I was a bit
confused and I almost disliked it, but as the movie progressed I got
into the story and by the end I really liked it. It's something new.
The director is a really bold person, for choosing this background and
for this type of adaptation. I saw both "Atonement" and "Pride and
Prejudice" the last one being the most fine movie of 2005 and the most
beautiful adaptation of the novel for a movie.
I understand why he chose to cast Keira again as the leading role. She is a fantastic actress no matter what others say. Well some others, because they aren't many. I disagree with some people that said that Alicia Vikander that played Kitty would have made a better Anna Karenina. On the contrary. I considered Alicia a bit dull, not very captivated in the atmosphere, and at some times bored. Kitty was in love with Vronsky, and she was very hurt when she heard about the affair. Alicia should have showed that more. She was very sweet and good nonetheless for the rest of the movie, but not so interesting as it praised. Keira Knightley was a perfect Anna Karenina. She played with so much love and passion her character that I really empathized with her. Her distress and sadness caught me by the end of the movie that I almost cried when her character committed suicide. As for Aaron Taylor-Johnson as others said maybe was not the Vronsky from the book, but it was the Vronsky for this movie. In this movie Vronsky was portrayed as an immature, young and unexperienced lover that , not that he wasn't willing to fight for Anna, but was rather (at some points not all) afraid of the situation. Honestly in that century's society, even because of love, you are not doing any good for the woman you love by allowing her into this mess. Anna acted typical for the woman in that period sacrificing everything for Vronsky, because she was silly and unhappy, but if Vronsky thought more wisely of the situation he would have protected Anna from all this circus. Practically Vronsky is showed here as someone very reckless and stubborn who didn't act in the right way at the right moment, with all the tempest around him. Aaron was a good actor. He really was. He is not a bad actor, not a great one either because he is still young, but is doing a nice job. And it was not his fault for portraying the beloved Vronsky in that way, it was the script and probably the director that told him to act like this. But he was not supposed to be liked. Jude Law, was supposed to be liked as Karenin, showing that in the end, he is the only one that cared for Anna with all the shame she brought upon him. Although he was mad at Anna and forbid her to see her child, he realized about Anna's situation and felt sorry for her. He was willing to help her but she refused, and with this decision her miserable life started. In the end, after her death he raised her child with Vronsky, which was a very sweet and wise thing, because he realized the child had no fault and in this way he apologized to Anna. Jude Law acted great as well.
And last but not least, the soundtrack was wonderful, the costumes were stunning, I really wish it will win an Oscar for Best Costume Design, because it deserves it. It was a great movie and stunning for its cinematography. Something new and refreshing. I really enjoyed it. I empathized very much with the characters despite what some others critics said. They are wrong. It's a wonderful production. And I was not the only one who thought that. At the end of the movie in my cinema the audience begun to clap and were praising it until I reached the exit.
Clever, bold and beautiful! Worth watching for sure, and will be appreciated more in the future when people will come to realize how it was done. It will happen one day I'm sure when people will look more carefully and deeper.
Deeply dislike it. British has no sense of Slavic soul and therefore
are unable to bring it on the screen. Or maybe its is just a case of
the director? No idea. But what annoyed me he most was this theatrical
stage, ropes, confined space, there was not enough space to breathe,
crowded and dark.
Actors. Keira keeps wearing the same necklace. In one of the scenes her manicure might be done better, or when she speaks I got impression that I am watching Aline... her saliva was catching my eyes.
Scenes with the train. Really a toy? I don't mind as long as it looks realistically but it didn't.
In my opinion this movie had a little budget and unfortunately it is visible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is hard to know where to begin with this film. On the one hand it
cannot be denied that it is a sumptuous visual feast. And as any good
chef will tell you, presentation counts for a lot, but once you put it
in your mouth your eyes cannot help you anymore. And that is where the
film goes wrong.
Poor casting of both Anna and her lover, coupled with any lack of empathy for Jude Law as the husband, Matthew MacFadden as the deceitful whoring brother, Kelly MacDonald as the simpering sister-in-law and Ron Weasley's eldest brother as someone's brother who doesn't have the courage necessary to woo the girl he loves, makes it hard to get involved.
The pretentious way in which the Director wanted this to be a film and a play was distracting and frankly left this viewer and his wife confused. You know that when you are wondering how much the blue wallpaper cost you have lost the plot.
Being clever because you can is actually not being clever. Every film, book, play, TV show has to have a story that grips the reader/viewer so that you hunger for what comes next, not simply wonder if you will be more, or less bored / confused / disappointed. Atonement and Pride & Prejudice worked: Anna Karenina is back in the job queue wondering if she's ever going to work again.
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