Thursday, 25 April 2013

Anna Karenina (2012) - ★★★½

Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Leo Tolstoy (Novel), Tom Stoppard (Screenplay)
Stars: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander

Joe Wright has taken many classic novels and put them to film, such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. He goes one step further in Anna Karenina. He has made a daring choice to tell the story as if it were being enacted by players on a stage. It was a bold and brilliant move for Tolstoy's novel has been told many times over, but never in a fashion such as this. Although the emotions were there, the story itself was overshadowed by the sheer perfection that was the costume, music and cinematography.

Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, we follow the story of beautiful aristocrat Anna Karenina (Knightley). She enters into an affair with Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson), a man notorious for his charms with women. We see how the affair changes her life and indeed herself. This movie is pitched as a 'whirlwind romance,' yet it never quite sweeps you off your feet.

The performances were brilliant across the board. Knightley really shined towards the end of the film, proving that she can do serious emotional roles. However, there isn't enough focus on their characters. Wright sweeps through each scene in a smooth and quick fashion, never letting us dwell on what has transpired. Although I liked the fashion in which the scenes changed, it would have been better if they slowed down a little and let the characters personalities shine through.

They should have adapted the novel better to the screenplay. There is plenty of material to work with in Tolstoy's masterpiece. In this film, they focused on the grand costumes and cinematography too much. Everything else felt secondary to these things. While I enjoyed the costumes, music and set-production the most, they should not have been the main focus. You're left talking about how good the movie looked, rather than how good the story is.

With that being said, I enjoyed this film immensely. I was unsure at first about Wright's direction of the film. In the end, it won me over. The story was still good, regardless of the things that were omitted from the screenplay. Every character was played marvelously, particularly Knightley as Karenina. The greatest aspect of the film was by far the sheer beauty of the surroundings, even though it shouldn't have been. I understand why not everyone would like this adaptation. It was daring, and I think it paid off.

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