Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Sumptuous, Passionate and Utterly Cinematic Anna Karenina



If you are dazzled by beauty, daring, and creativity, I think you will like the new cinematic stab at “Anna Karenina.” While I looked forward to seeing this, the weight of the earlier performances of both Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh seemed too much for the frail little shoulders of Keira Knightley. How could she compare?





First, let me say that reading this book in high school was NOT a happy experience. It was just so long, and all of the artifice of Imperial Russian society seemed so – well – artificial. Why couldn't the characters just say what they mean? Ah, youth…… And so Director Joe Wright’s challenge: not only to squeeze this hulking epic story of intertwined relationships into an approximate 2-hour story, but to make it look and feel fresh. I am happy to report that he has succeeded. Another straightforward retelling of Anna’s story would have been just so boring, no matter how gorgeously filmed. Instead Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have elected to frame this story of the human heart so chained to the artifice and hypocrisy of society with the proscenium arch of the stage. It is bold, it is daring and it is gorgeous. And – it just feels right.



Well, we all know how it ends (Anna, the train and all that), but the characterizations offer some thrills:



Keira Knightley as Anna

Unlike the dignified beauties, Garbo and Leigh, Knightley is an artless, even coltish young woman playing the part of a respectable married lady. She seems content with her priggish husband and clearly adores her young son, but when the outlandish beauty of Count Vronsky is placed before her, she is consumed by an uncontrollable and feverish passion that ultimately wrecks her life. She tries so hard to live by the rules, but the rule of desire is just too much for her. She is, after all, so young.

Jude Law as Karenin


This is my favorite performance in the film. I hated this character in the book, and played by both Basil Rathbone and Ralph Richardson (in the Garbo and Leigh version), he is a cold-hearted prig. Jude Law (almost unrecognizable) plays the deceived husband with compassion. Yes, he's a bore, but he loves Anna and is heart-broken by her deceit. I felt sorry for him - something I never felt for this character when reading the book or watching the other film versions of the story.


Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vroksky

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is so outlandishly pretty as Anna's lover, Count Vronsky, that I found myself chuckling in order to relive the discomfort of such beauty in a masculine form. He is discomforting, not to mention callow, thoughtless and selfish. He is disturbing. Based on her wardrobe and accessories, Anna loves beautiful things. How could she not want to possess this jewel?


The film also gives time to the Levin/Kitty romance, which balances the destructive love of Anna and Vronsky.

Was it perfect? Probably not. But, it dazzled my eyes and thrilled my imagination and that's why I love the movies.


21 comments:

Laura said...

"Knightley is an artless, even coltish young woman playing the part of a respectable married lady." Wow, that's pretty great, since that's more of how I pictured Anna in the book, rather than as the mysterious lady of sophistication and intrigue I've seen in other productions. I also felt some compassion for poor dry Karenin in the book, and felt that in his own way he loved Anna. In other words, guess I need to see this version. Great review!

KimWilson said...

I'm so looking forward to seeing this. I adore Keira Knightley in 99% of everything she's ever done. I'm glad to know they didn't change the ending to some bastardized Hollywood happy ending.

Dawn Sample said...

I can not wait to see this film version of Anna Karenina!! I'm a huge fan of Keira Knightley, so I know that it is going to be great!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Laura. I give the director high marks for taking such a familiar story that has done before and making it not only fresh, but beautiful.

FlickChick said...

Kim - I think you will like this. Keira Knightley, as always, plays costume drama exceedingly well. And the director's concept just blew me away. I look forward to your review.

FlickChick said...

Dawn - I am curious to hear what you think of the film - enjoy!!

Chloe Schofield said...

Hello,
I just found your darling blog, and became your newest follower. Everything here is so pretty! I look forward to reading your future posts soon. I hope you are enjoying the countdown to Christmas.
Love,
Chloe xx

FlickChick said...

Hello Chloe! Thank you so much for your kind words. Here's wishing you a beautiful holiday season.

Samantha said...

I have not seen this yet but after reading your post...I am on my way to the theater.

FlickChick said...

Samantha - I hope you get to see it in the movies - it is gorgeous.

ClassicBecky said...

Chick, I was reluctant to see this just because I am a huge fan of the Vivien Leigh version. Frankly I was afraid they might make a teenage type romance out of this, as so many other movies have been. But, your description and recommendation are enough for me -- I'll look forward to it!

FlickChick said...

Becky - it was so imaginative and unexpected. Plus - it is just darn beautiful to behold. They took something that has been done before and made it different, unique, surprising and gorgeous.Sometimes it is rather over the top, but so was high society back then.

ClassicBecky said...

I do love good movies that depict the high society of other eras -- the details of living, dining, theatre, dress, all that just fascinates me. The Age of Innocence (the Daniel Day Lewis one) just enthralled me with that. All richness and excess are over-the-top, any era. I always think "What would I wear" and "How wonderful to move through the year in fashionable places." Then I think I probably would have been the Irish scullery maid ....LOL!

FlickChick said...

Becky - I picture you as the Queen of All She Surveys.

ClassicBecky said...

Well, actually I picture myself that way too -- I was just too embarrassed to say so ;)

Page said...

The first thing I noticed was Jude Law's appearance. The reason being that I watched Alfie just last night if you can believe it. He was so damn handsome in it but that was several years ago. I do plan to see this remake and I'm glad that you gave us this entertaining look at it. It's out at the perfect time for me since I've been into period pieces lately for some reason.
I finished watching the John Adams mini series last week. (brilliant!) and I've got "The Young Victoria", "The Other Boleyn Girl" and the mini series "Elizabeth" on my list to watch next. Have you seen any of these?

All the best!
Page

DorianTB said...

Chick, isn't it ironic that Jude Law is still so ridiculously handsome that they had to give him an older man's haircut to play Karenin? :-) But seriously, from what I can tell, not having seen this version of the film yet, this version of ANNA KARENINA looks so gorgeous and provides food for thought, and Keira Knightley is always tops in my book. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it! Thanks for piquing my interest!

Suzane Weck said...

A versão deste filme foi realmente sensacional.Lindíssima tua postagem.Um bom domingo e meu abraço.SU.

FlickChick said...

Hi Page - Jude Law proves he is more than just a pretty face. I loved his performance. He just can't help but be sympathetic. I've seen the John Adams mini series and loved it but haven't seen the others. Happy time travels!

FlickChick said...

Thanks Dorian - it is gorgeous and imaginative. I hope you get to see it.

FlickChick said...

Suzane - I only understood a few words of your post, but thank you so much for stopping by!