17 Mar 2013

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is another movie adaptation of the story by  Tolstoy of love, devotion and duty in 19th century Russia. When i saw the shorts for this I knew that this film would be best viewed on the big screen. So my lady and I went to the Lighthouse Brooklyn to see it. They have good wine there.


Anna Karenina (Keira Knightly) is the beautiful wife of respected senior statesman Prince Karenin (Jude Law) in St Petersburg. Her Brother Stiva ( Matthew MacFadyen)  is a a Senior statesman in Moscow, and he is also a cheating on his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonad) with the nanny. Anna travels to Moscow to see if she can salvage her brothers marriage, which she does so successfully by convincing Dolly that she should forgive Stiva.  She decides to stay in Moscow for a ball in honour of Dollys younger sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) who hero worships the glamorous Anna.

Meanwhile Kostya Levin (Domhall Gleeson), a wealthy landowner from "the country" ( A can only assume that Tolstoy was a bit of a city boy) arrives in Moscow to resume his courtship of Kitty. Kostya asks his friend Stiva for advice and Stiva warns him that a slimy Cavalry officer, count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is sniffing around Kitty. Kostya immediately travels to the woman he loves to propose, but Kitty refuses him, for the more dashing Vronsky.

At the ball everyone is expecting the pretty Vrosky to sweep Kitty of her feet, but instead he is infatuated with the older glamorous Anna. Anna is swept up by the young officers passion for her. Kitty is devastated and Anna realising that she has been dancing with Kittys sweet heart for most of Kittys ball, immediately leaves Moscow for home. There she finds that the effeminate spoiled officer has followed her to St Petersberg. There she desperately fought against his advances for about 24 seconds for embarking upon a very public affair.

Ensue infidelity.

I haven't read much Russian literature but Tolstoy reads to me like the Russian land he idolises, long, and arduous. But the film wasn't.

What I liked about it was the production. The scenes of St Petersburg, and Moscow are set in a theatre. Now this confused me at first as I thought the story was set in a theatre, but now the houses are the stage, the streets are back stage, or front of house. Shakespeares quote of life being a stage, driving the feel and look of this film. 

This appears to be a comment on Russian society at the time, more so when Levin leaves Moscow heartbroken and returns to the country. His scenes are shot in the Russian countryside. A reflection at his life is more 'real', than that of the socialites of St Petersburg and Moscow.  It was clever and the director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) pulled it off with out seeming pretentious.

The cast is a great ensemble of European character actors, Jude Law was very good, but for me Matthew Macfadyen was great. His performance and the production made the whole thing for me.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson has certainly come a long way from  Kickass.

Keira Knightly I have found to be generally disliked by most people I talk to, not sure why. People just find her annoying. Well if that is the case she is type cast in this role. I struggled with this film because the main protagonists, if you can call them that were so self absorbed and horrible. The story is effectively a morality play. People who betray the ones who love them inevitably end up unhappy disliked and hopefully smashed under a train.  If only that was true in real life.

It is not a fun story, but if you want a new and very pretty take on this Tolstoy story then give it a whirl.

Five out of  Ten Russian Monkeys from me

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