About the film
Anna Karenina is a 2012 film adaptation of the book of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The film has a run time of 129 minutes and a classification of 12A.
Set in late nineteenth century Imperial Russia, aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina sets off on a mission to save her brother, Prince Oblonsky’s marriage after having an affair with his housemaid. During her travels, Anna meets a cavalry officer, Count Vronsky whom she has an instant attraction to. Anna is married herself but in a cold and unloving relationship with her husband. At first Anna wants nothing to do with Vronsky but soon enough cannot hide her attraction to him. The pair embarks on an affair which becomes both life altering and devastating.
What I thought
Anna Karenina is one of those films that instantly looked beautiful from the trailer which is why I wanted to see it. However, once watching the film, it soon became apparent that I wasn’t about to watch what I was expecting. This film has a very strange way of telling the story and it appears to be a play within a play at times. We see characters changing out of costumes, set changes and props being moved around. The whole production makes the film seem as though we are sat at the theatre, or watching the cast trying to prepare for their roles. The set changes are always quick and often at the beginning of the film, going from the Karenin home one minute to a massive ballroom or workplace in the next. The stylisation of Anna Karenina is not for everyone and I found it very distracting and confusing at times, especially as within the second half of the film, it is used more sparingly.
However strange some of the style may be, the sets within this film are quite stunning. Set during Imperial Russia, there are fabulous views of frozen lakes while contrasting with the lush and extravagant ballrooms of the aristocracy. Much of the fabulous scenery within the film was in fact constructed on the stage, instead of using external locations. I found it fascinating that making a film could be done in such a way and for it to still look amazing. Ok, it may have looked even better had authentic and real locations been used instead but the style and originality is definitely there within this film.
Kiera Knightley plays the leading lady Anna Karenina. She is in a loveless marriage but has managed to gain a son she loves very much out of it. Acting ability aside, Knightley looks absolutely stunning in this film as she does in any other period drama. Karenina is seen in lavish and expensive gowns which Knightley does not let overpower her. Playing the role of a woman searching for something more in life, Knightley does a really good job. She plays the role of confused and unsure socialite with perfection but then, she is known for these kinds of roles now as she has done a fair few. As Karenina meets love interest Count Vronsky, she is torn between her life at home with her husband and son and a life of excitement and true love. Knightley manages to let her character convey emotions with the smallest of glances. Never does she completely give anything away but there is always a look her in eye saying there is something more going on inside her head.
Supporting cast members include those such as Jude Law as Anna’s husband, Alexei Karenin, and Matthew Macfadyen as Anna’s brother. Each secondary character has their own plots going on throughout the film but each is obviously overpowered by the main story between Anna and Count Vronsky. Law does exceptionally well as Anna’s unloving and seemingly uncaring husband. He is extremely cold towards her and doesn’t show emotion at all. No wonder Anna wanted something more out of life than a convenient marriage. While I don’t normally like Law, I am beginning to warm to him more and more with each film I see him in recently. Although he plays an unlikeable character in this film, I strangely did end up liking him. Macfadyen provides some humour in his role as Stepan, which is a huge contrast to Karenin and the dramatics of Anna and Vronsky’s relationship.
However, while some secondary characters were great, others were not given enough time to develop. The story of Anna Karenina and the subplots within it is a lot to fit into a two hour film so there had to be a bit of leeway somewhere. For me, the richness and diversity of other characters helped to make this film more interesting than it could have been. I would have loved to have seen other plotlines developed more and for other characters to have received more development and screen time. While the story of Anna and Vronsky was obviously the most important aspect of the film, I think that it could have cut down on the time spent with the two in order to make time for other things.
Anna Karenina is one of the classic love stories and within this adaptation, it sees a bit of reinvention. I’m not overly sold on the way in which it was done however and the styling definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, the story is a good one and well-acted throughout.