Reviewed for Shockya by Tami Smith (guest reviewer)
Director: Joe Wright
Screenwriter: Tom Stoppard based on a novel by Leo Tolstoy
Cast: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson
Screened at: Universal, NYC, 10/25/12
Opens: November 16, 2012
Anna Karenina is a tragic story of a married aristocrat-socialite from Saint Petersburg and her affair with an affluent count, a cavalry officer, circa 1874. The young officer is willing to marry her if she can leave her husband. She is shunned by the Russian society and becomes more isolated, growing possessive and paranoid by his alleged infidelities, a situation that will lead to her suicide.
The novel was adapted into films eleven times prior to the current version, in 1914, 1915, 1927, 1935, 1948, 1953, 1960, 1967, 1974, 1985 and 1987. The 2012 version frames the entire film into a stage-format with viewers aware from the opening minute that a stage play is in progress. Doors open and close, sets are changed with Broadway-style efficiency, and characters go indoors or out in a surreal manner. For example, a character can be seen entering a room in a coat suitable for outdoor weather but exits the room in a dinner jacket. Even a horse race is made to look as though it would be performed on stage. Some scenes are wordless and staged by cast members and professional dancers in elaborate dance format that leaves some actors frozen in motion while a spotlight is focused on Anna and her lover. Choreography is by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to music by Dario Marianelli. Crisp photography is by Seamus McGarvey with costumes created by Jacqueline Durran in a beautiful 1874 style with 1950’s accent, while hair and make-up were designed by Ivana Primora.
Director Joe Wright’s cast includes Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina, Jude Law as her husband Karenin, Matthew MacFadyen as her brother Stiva and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her lover Count Vronsky. Keira Knightley looks and behaves like a porcelain doll, dressed in just-from Paris exquisite garments, while Jude Law is unrecognizable as the cuckolded husband, with a balding scalp, constipated behavior and cracking knuckles. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character, Vronsky, is a toy-boy with full lips but no character, so that one may ask “what does she see in him”? Matthew MacFadyen, on the other hand, is spot-on funny as Stiva and has the best one-liners in the least expected situations. A good-natured fellow, his character likes to eat, procreate, and have sex with his children’s governess on the side.
This latest version of Anna Karenina is all style but no substance. It may draw in costume-drama loving audiences that like dance numbers and theatrical stage productions. For a more realistic version take a look at the 1985 creation with Jacqueline Bisset as Anna, Paul Scofield as Karenin and Christopher Reeve as Vronsky.
Rated R. 120 minutes © Tami Smith
Story – C
Acting – B+
Technical – A
Overall – B-