Anna Karenina is based on the same novel by Leo Tolstoy. I had the pleasure to read this few months ago and I died of boredom. I mean, this novel was game-changing back in 19th Century. It must have been like “whoa, no shit Tolstoy, this is an awesome read!” But to read this novel again in this time did nothing to me. It’s irrelevant. On top of that, Anna Karenina is a long novel since it was published in eight part series. So yeah, the story can get melodramatic.
Back to the movie. Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright and screenplay written by Tom Stoppard, is one interesting project. The movie starts off with a ‘dance-like’ trance movement, which can be exasperating for some I am sure. But since I have read the book, in my opinion this is a clever approach. What Joe Wright did was experimental, I agree, but it make the movie better for viewing purposes. He did downplayed several “critical” points here and there, but what can he do, the book was too long! Give the fella a break. If I didn’t turn off a movie halfway while watching then I considered the director did well.
My favourite cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (who later worked on The Avengers and Godzilla) did a marvelous job in here. His talent goes hand in hand with production designer, Sarah Greenwood whose skill is quite dominating throughout the movie. Music score by Dario Marianelli also provided a calm distraction. Last but not least, Jacqueline Durran who won the Academy Award for her costume design in this movie adds a strong yet classy touch in contrast to the cold Russian background.
Keira Knightley plays the titular role of Anna Karenina: a character who is not satisfy with what she had. She then begin a scandalous love affair with the young and handsome Captain Vronsky. The movie, like the book, doesn’t solely focus on Anna’s love torment. It takes its fair share of time and dedicate it to Russia’s country state and social commentary as we seen through the lives of Levin, Kitty, Oblonsky and Dolly. If you read the book, you will be familiar with the long and sometime tedious passages about the agriculture and industrial revolution in 19th Century Russia. The movie, thankfully, didn’t dwell deeper into it. Albeit, all the supporting characters got their stories told, even if the audience at the end didn’t really care about them.
This is the funny thing about book to movie adaptation. While reading the novel I didn’t give two cents about Anna and Vronsky. I found myself cheering for her character at the end of the book.. if you get what I mean. Where else, Knightley’s Karenina is a whole different situation. I felt her anguish, her desire to start a new life with Vronsky and her despair and paranoia in the end. In short, I felt closer to this Anna through Knightley’s talent.
Jude Law played the good-for-nothing Count Alexei who I think did justice to the character. Matthew Macfadyen as Anna’s brother is funny at first but became a shadow in the background afterwards. Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson played Levin and did a wonderful job, while Alicia Vikander is as good as the next actress to play Kity. How was Aaron Taylor Johnson as Vronsky you wonder? I think he played it to a considerable extent. I understand the female fans tend to think Tolstoy’s Vronsky is this Greek God morph with Robert Patinson in the book, but let me tell you something: you got it wrong. His character sucks in the book as well in this one. His character has no substance and his torrid affair with Anna is superfluous. You guys know Tolstoy was a moralist right? He would never let them ended up together.
If you are an English Literature student and think you can skip the book and watch the movie instead? Sure do that. Better yet, why not ask your teacher to come along.