Culture Street

Film review: Anna Karenina

On February 18, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Director Joe Wright and Keira Knightly team up once again for Anna Karenina. Previously they joined forces for Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, both visually stunning films.

Anna Karenina is Wright’s most ambitious piece. Based on the classic and much loved novel by the same name, Wright has set the entire film in a theatre.

The story follows Anna (Keira Knightly), married to the serious Karenin (Jude Law). On a trip to Moscow to see her womanising brother, Stiva (played by Mathew Macfayden), and broker peace between him and his wife, Anna meets the young and affluent Count Vronsky. Anna’s public flirtations with Vronsky attract attention and unwanted gossip in society. Desperate to leave her husband for the young Vronsky, Anna becomes torn between her love of Vronsky, and love for her son who must stay with Karenin. She is soon walking a fateful path of public disgrace.

A parallel story runs with Levin, Stiva’s friend, a farm owner and idealist, distraught after being rejected by Anna’s sister Kitty. At the start of the novel Vronsky is in pursuit of Kitty’s hand, but with Anna distracting Vronsky, Kitty becomes more amenable to the advances of Levin.

Set to the back drop of socio-political issues affecting Russia in the latter part of the nineteenth century, this film examines the public downfall of a woman who did not adhere to the rules of the time.

The opulence of Russian High Society is clear through the gowns, furs and jewellery worn on set. Anna’s clothes are striking, the use of scarlet and dark colours for her dresses and intricate veils accentuate the tragedy of Anna’s character. There is over $2 million dollars worth of Chanel jewellery on display, the most stunning piece is a triple-tiered diamond necklace featuring one of Chanel’s signature motifs, the camellia.

With such a far reaching novel as this, Wright has unfortunately placed limitations on it by the insular setting. Scenes are set on the stage, sometimes in the auditorium with seats removed and at other times backstage amongst the ropes and pulleys where those around freeze as the main characters walk through the frozen crowd towards their destination. The most startling scene is the horse race set on the stage with the racegoers seated in the theatre auditorium.

As a piece of beauty and art the film is spectacular, but the storyline suffers becoming fractured by the constant movement of sets within the theatre. It is a creative approach to a novel that has been adapted numerous times before and will perhaps stand the test of time with its point of difference.


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