If I had not known that Joe Wright was the director of 'Anna Karenina', I would have guessed it would have been a Baz Luhrmann film. Theatricality, drama, intensity-well the setting is a theatre after all. And that is what distinguished 2012's version apart from the rest of the adaptations, the theatre setting. It is so important to give a novel much loved by many people a people an unique twist, and I think Wright has achieved this. It does seem an odd concept at first, but then again no odder than Seth Macfarlane's Ted, but it worked perfectly. And the cast had a little something to do with this.
Aaron Johnson played a cool, cold Vronsky, one that I did not have much affinity to at all-Wright's intentions, I suppose. I have to say his youth brought a lot to the love story-a little more convincing than Sean Bean's Vronsky it has to be said. It was amusing to see Jude Law taking a different role to what we are used to. No longer the rom-com hero, he played Alexei Karenin- a man of high position, middle-aged and balding (seriously). I've never really considered Law to be a great actor but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance, as he created a detached, and at the same time, sympathetic character. Finally, Keira Knightley, was, well as Keira Knightley is in her speciality period drama, striking, engaging and as Karenina slightly naive.
Lenin is not as prominent as he is in the novel, taking a backseat to Anna's story. But then again it is inevitable to fit 864 pages into 2 hours without editing parts of the narrative out. It would have been pleasant for Kitty and Lenin's romance to be explored more deeply, and certain elements are missing. The main theme of the book is Lenin's struggle to find the meaning of life, and disappointingly, this seemed a very minuscule detail of the film, compared to the intense theatricality of Karenina and Vronsky's affair. Watching the film independently to the novel, I would not have identified Lenin'sstory to be a major theme of the novel, and I believe this is where the film is lacking.
Every cloud has a silver lining though, and that comes in the form of the lavish costume design. Jacqueline Durran says of the costumes;
"He (Wright) told me that he didn’t really want to make it historically accurate, costume wise: he wanted to stylise it. The way he wanted to stylise it was to concentrate on the silhouette of each character and to take an 1870s silhouette, but simplify the surface details so that it really had the architectural simplicity of 50s couture. What I had to do immediately was look at the 1870s shape then strip away all the surface detail and just be left with that pure shape."So, while not historically correct the costumes were ornate, magnificent, dreamy and to be quite frank, pretty darn spectacular. Think rich, deep colours, expensive (faux) furs, satin of the highest quality,and you're in the sumptuous design world of Wright's Anna Karenina. One costume is even featured in the Hollywood costume exhibit, as pictured below.
The verdict? Highly enjoyable, I recommend you watch, the best Anna Karenina adaption I have seen. Not a masterpiece though-crucial parts are missing, I completely understand the constraints involved, but I do think it would have been refreshing to see Lenin more. I would say watch out for an Oscar nomination within the costume and set design categories!
What did you think to Anna Karenina? Are you planning on seeing the film?
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