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
Visually and audibly stunning, but overall one of the weaker adaptations
Along with War and Peace, Anna Karenina is one of the greatest Russian novels and one of the greats of 19th century literature, the story is heart-breaking and intense and the characters compelling. Anna Karenina has often been filmed, and of the film versions the 1967 Russian and 1935 Greta Garbo films fare the best and the 2012 Joe Wright-directed version the weakest. This 1997 adaptation from Bernard Rose (Paperhouse, Immortal Beloved, Candyman) has a good amount to like but is one of the weaker adaptations.
Visually, the film looks absolutely stunning and along with the 1967 Russian film it is one of the most evocative adaptations period detail-wise. Although some of the editing is choppy, the cinematography is ravishing and the costumes and sets are some of the most beautiful and evocative of any adaptation of Anna Karenina, especially in the opulent ballroom scene and the gorgeous wintry landscapes. The Tchaikovsky-laden music score makes for an aural feast and couldn't have fitted more perfectly.
Three performances are good. Coming off best is Alfred Molina, who brings authority and many layers to Levin, wish more was done with developing the character more in terms of writing but at least the film included the character and his subplot with Kitty. James Fox is a ruthlessly cold and haunting Karenin, the character played consistently well in all the Anna Karenina adaptations even in the not-so-good ones. Sean Bean is a handsome Vronsky, but brings a steely intensity to the role that stops the character from being wooden or tragic, rightfully avoiding the dashing heroic figure stereotype.
Sophie Marceau however I found miscast as Anna, she looks splendid but is pretty vacuous and lacking in passion. Her chemistry with Bean convinces in the latter and more turbulent parts of the relationship but dull in the early parts. Mia Kirschner is also rather too modern and lightweight for Kitty. This version of Anna Karenina is a visual and aural stunner with a few impressive performances, but is one of the least successful and interesting versions in terms of script and how the story is told.
The dialogue doesn't always flow naturally, and feels very dry in tone and with little depth and substance, and the narration was rather unnecessary. Rose's direction shows terrific technical assurance but lacks the same kind of momentum in telling the story. It's the story where the film most falls down, feeling far too short and far too rushed, with about half of the story (or so it feels) being told but all in Cliff Notes version, and it even feels like more of the film was filmed but cut due to studio interference. Neither of the romances are dealt with well, Anna and Vronsky's is too rushed and the very incomplete-feeling one between Levin and Kitty sometimes really slows down the film.
Overall, not a bad version but a less than ideal one, as an adaptation and as a film on its own. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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