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
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