By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Anna Karenina (Keira Knightly) is a member of society, married to high-level noble Alexei Karenin. She is also an adulteress, having fallen head over heels in love with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). She desperately longs to leave her husband and marry Vronsky, however the mores of high society in Russia and the slowness of Vronsky to make a commitment has her contemplating the nature of love. This story is contrasted with the romantic travails of Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a wealthy farmer who longs for the love of Kitty (Alicia Vikander), who rejects his advances, but ultimately begins to see his qualities.
Filmmaker Joe Wright seemed the perfect fit to adapt Leo Tolstoy’s tale of society, love and rejection. After all, you can say that Atonement and Pride and Prejudice were both period pieces with a high sense of visual polish, and when it was announced he would re-team with Keira Knightley, an actress seemingly more at home in a corset than any other young actress in Hollywood, the stars seemed to be perfectly aligned.
Despite some initial misgivings…
Before I explain what went wrong with this film, I’ll give credit where it’s due. Joe Wright had a clear vision for this film, which is shot as if some kind of living stage-play, one scene flowing effortlessly into another like a ballet. You cannot help but admire the work that went into it. The Cinematography from Seamus McGarvey was very impressive, and compares strongly against other Joe Wright features.
I’ll begin by explaining that I have no knowledge of the source material. Perhaps those who’ve read the Tolstoy novel will find more to appreciate, however as an uninitiated viewer, I found the film difficult to follow. The movie drops you into the story already in progress, and expects you to pick up the pieces as it moves along. I have no problem with films which do this, in fact it is often a positive boon for a film to throw you off a bit at first.
Some directors make a whole career out of it
Good filmmakers do this to play with the audience’s trust a little, and when the story comes together it can be infinitely rewarding. Unfortunately, when you finally start to follow the story there is nothing revelatory, and little to invest in.
I don’t know if it is the fault of the filmmakers, the writers, Keira Knightley, or all three; but Anna is completly unsympathetic. Her character is depicted as someone who is torn between her lover and her life of privilege. In doing so, she emotionally craps on her husband, the loving but passive Alexei (Jude Law). From what I’ve read on it, the book doesn’t portray Alexei as quite as nice, but in this film, even after finding out about his wife’s infidelity, he still shows that he cares for her. Instead of embarrassing her publicly, he offers to forget about it and move on. It is her insistence on going public with her affair that instead embarrasses Alexei.
Tsarist Russia is so emo…
Interesting as the stage-play concept is, at times it also distracts attention away from the story. Perhaps if the film began by setting up the story, instead of starting in the middle, it would have been easier to follow, and would have been more engaging. In the end, I can’t sum it up any better than someone in the theater who said as the credits rolled; “what the hell did we just watch?”
A kernel of flammable genius, misfired.
Take a Drink: every time you’re reminded that you’re on a set.
Take a Drink: every time you see a new moustache. (You might want to sip, this’ll get you a long way)
Dp a Shot: any time Jude Law finds out he’s getting fucked over, and does nothing.