Anna Karenina: the Film

February 17, 2015

anna kareninaSome films are just hard to forget and even though some literary masterpieces inspired many film adaptations, book and cinema lovers like me don’t mind exploring new perspectives or innovative ideas that film directors have imagined for their projects. For today’s review I chose to write about the 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a film directed by Joe Wright, that stars Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina, Jude Law as Alexei Karenin and Aaron Taylor Johnson as Count Alexei Vronsky.

In a few words, Anna, wife of Minister Alexei Karenin, travels from Sankt Petersburg to Moscow to help her sister-in-law, Dolly, and her brother, Stiva Oblonsky, cope with their marriage crisis. However, this trip represents a turning point in Anna’s dull and loveless married life. She meets the handsome Alexei Vronsky, who seems to be interested in her. After Anna dances with the young count, she is aware that she should stay away from him, but he is constantly following her, making her eventually give into temptation. Anna’s thoughts and feelings are contradictory: she is happy that Vronsky loves her, at least to a certain point in the film, but she also feels guilty for losing her status; therefore, it is difficult for her wish to be free and to raise Seryozha to come true.

I can understand the fact that Anna needs romantic love, and literature is full of such love triangles, but she seems a bit egoistic, because she wants both to be happy with Vronsky and to take custody of Seryozha. However, she had to choose between the love for her son and the love for Vronsky and, from my point of view, the love for Seryozha should have been stronger than a fading passion. Maybe she was naïve and she thought that Vronsky’s love would be forever, only that feelings fade away in time. Thus, towards the end of the film, she feels more lonely and vulnerable than ever. On the other hand, the count seems pretty superficial, a handsome womanizer who breaks Kitty’s heart. He stalks and threatens to leave Anna forever if she doesn’t love him, but after some time he gradually becomes uninterested in her.Anna Karenina

The wisest of the three is Karenin, Anna’s husband, who loves her in his own way and even after he notices the changes in his wife’s behaviour; he pretends not to understand or not to see what is going on, presumably because he was an important political figure of the Russian society and he didn’t want his family to be involved in any scandal. Unlike Anna, who becomes extremely jealous of Vronsky at some point, Karenin considers jealousy a weakness and an insult to his wife. Therefore, he calmly advises Anna to be careful when going in public, because society is gossiping about her. Though Karenin is Anna’s husband, my sensation is that she dominates him, not vice versa; thus, he feels more and more humiliated with each mistake Anna makes – from the scene he finds her flirting with Vronsky to the confessions she makes to her husband. Karenin’s delay to file for divorce and the refusal to let his son live with a depraved mother may symbolize the instance that tries to censor Anna’s wishes. If Anna Karenina’s story represents the fall of a virtuous woman who met the man that destroyed her, in the secondary plotline Constantine Levin seeks the sinuous path to a peaceful life in the countryside, away from the temptations of the city.

Although the story and the way actors (especially Keira Knightley and Jude Law) made the characters come to life is beyond words, I really love Joe Wright’s idea of placing the scenes into an abandoned theatre, as if the entire society is a huge stage, where every person has a well-defined role. The theatre, the costumes, the music and the dances depict the snobbism of the high society, profoundly anna karenina waltzinfluenced by French culture: the dishes have pompous French names and French cancan is mingled with Russian dances – these are ridiculously funny things of the past that amuse the 21th century audience. Besides the alternation between theatrical scenes and film scenes, another interesting technique caught my attention. Though I knew how the film was about to end, I liked the way Wright inserted brief images of the train between important scenes and Anna’s thoughts about Vronsky and her life.

I hope that you enjoyed my review and the film, if you have seen it. What did you think about the 2012 adaptation?

by Alina Andreea Cătărău

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3 Responses to Anna Karenina: the Film

  1. Keira Knightley Quotes | eLitere on May 16, 2015 at 3:36 am

    […] think that these quotes go well with Alina’s review for Anna Karenina. I can’t say that I am a fan, but I do admire Keira Knightley, she’s talented, funny […]

  2. Film Tag | eLitere on May 22, 2016 at 7:38 am

    […] is suited to bring to life strong female protagonists or characters such as her epic role in Anna Karenina, which I think it surpassed her performance as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I also […]

  3. Film Tag 2 | eLitere on September 11, 2016 at 6:01 am

    […] Anna Karenina is one of the literary masterpieces I haven’t read yet; however, I watched Joe Wright’s film adaptation and I fell in love with the theatrical setting and all the cinematic effects that seemed so real, especially at the cinema. Though I knew Keira Knightley only from her role as Elizabeth Bennet in the same director’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I began to love this British actress more after watching Anna Karenina, because I saw her evolve and mature through the role of Anna, in the way she performed and expressed the protagonist’s feelings, I would definitely watch this film again. […]

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