Anna Karenina Review
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As Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” And director Joe Wright definitely took Shakespeare’s words to heart when it came to adapting Leo Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenina, into a grand, theatrical production that might just ignite your curiosity in the epic novel.

Keira Knightley reunites with her Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director to play the title character, a wealthy Russian wife and mother who finds herself in a tricky situation. On a trip to Moscow to help patch things up between her womanizing brother (Matthew Macfadyen) and his heartbroken wife (Kelly Macdonald), Anna meets Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a handsome young cavalry officer who’s already linked to young Kitty (Alicia Vikander).

  
 
Though Anna tries to deny her attraction to the persistent Vronsky, she finally gives in to her feelings. But while she finds a kind of happiness with Vronsky that she never had with her husband, Alexei (Jude Law), their relationship leads to a multitude of problems.

Adapting this epic novel was no small feat: condensing a thousand pages or so of drama, romance, and politics into a script of maybe 150 pages. But while Oscar-winning screen writer Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) did an impressive job of summing it all up, Anna Karenina is still sometimes a bit of a challenge to follow. There are so many interconnected characters involved in so many tangled storylines—most of which don’t get the development that they deserve. So it takes some work to keep track of them all.

While some of the storylines have been significantly trimmed back, though—and the whole thing sometimes feels a bit rushed—the main themes are still evident, along with the passion and the conflict and the tragedy of it all. Even if you’ve never read the novel, you’ll find that Anna’s story is all too familiar: a woman gives up everything for love, only to find that her sacrifice eventually leads to her undoing. And while Knightley wouldn’t have been my first choice to play this tragic figure, she still does a respectable job of portraying the character’s wildly-swinging emotions throughout the journey.

Meanwhile, Wright gives the film an intriguing twist by giving it a theatrical backdrop—as if the whole thing were playing out on a massive stage. Granted, it’s a little gimmicky—and it comes and goes whenever it’s convenient for the storytelling—but the moving sets and clever transitions give the film a mesmerizing rhythm that’s all its own.

Of course, it’s hard to say whether Tolstoy himself would approve of this artistic adaptation of his classic work of realist fiction. After all, it’s anything but simple and ordinary. But, as a film, it’s elegant and sensual, literate and lyrical—and beautifully dreary. And that makes it worth watching on a chilly winter afternoon.


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