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Saturday, April 11, 2015

The week of movies: day 6



Tonight's movie was Anna Karenina ...

a 2012 British epic romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel of the same name, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina, wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with the affluent officer Count Vronsky which leads to her ultimate demise. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role as Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright following both Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Karenin and Vronsky, respectively. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander appear in key supporting roles.

The basic plot - in a loveless marriage, Anna Karenina has an affair with a young officer, Count Vronsky. Though their clique accepts men catting around, not so much women, and she's separated from her son by her husband and socially ostracized. Eventually she throws herself under a train. Writing that last sentence just made me want to giggle, not cry - I might have been touched by the scenario if the movie had been straightforwardly sincere, but it was so mannered and emotionally distanced and form-over-substance with the way it was staged that I just couldn't take it seriously.

Roger Ebert gave the movie only 2.5 stars out of 4 and I think he was right - as he wrote in his review ...

[...] In Joe Wright's daringly stylized new version of "Anna Karenina," he returns for the third time to use Keira Knightley as his heroine. She is almost distractingly beautiful here and elegantly gowned to an improbable degree. One practical reason for that: As much as half of Wright's film is staged within an actual theater and uses not only the stage but the boxes and even the main floor — with seats removed — to present the action. We see the actors in the wings, the stage machinery, the trickery with backdrops, horses galloping across in a steeplechase ....

This is a sumptuous film — extravagantly staged and photographed, perhaps too much so for its own good. There are times when it is not quite clear if we are looking at characters in a story or players on a stage. Productions can sometimes upstage a story, but when the story is as considerable as "Anna Karenina," that can be a miscalculation.


Here's the trailer ...


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