Film Review: Anna Karenina

| 14 February , 2013 | Reply

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Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew MacFadyen, Domhnall Gleeson
Sassi’s Star Rating: 4/5

In the battle for the Valentines Day box office Roadshow have pulled out all the stops with Anna Karenina; arguably one of the grandest love stories ever told; if you like the kind of tragic surrender that has you as petrified of falling in love as it has you enamoured by it, that is.


It’s the novel that Dostoyevsky called ‘a perfect work of art’. Written in three weeks, perfected over five years; Tolstoy’s epic exploration of love, morality, religion, and happiness is set within the rigid structure of late 19th century Imperial Russia. Anna (Keira Knightley) holds an envied place in society: the beautiful wife of Karenin (Jude Law) an influential politician and holy man, a ‘saint’ of motherland Russia. Anna travels across country to convince her sister-in-law Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) not to leave her husband (a delightful Matthew MacFadyen) who has been indulging in a string of liaisons with lower class women.


On the train Anna meets handsome cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and immediate attraction becomes dangerous temptation as the two begin to play out a scandalous affair front of polite society’s disapproving eyes. Their decadent passion is contrasted by that of Levin (Domhnall Gleeson); his unrequited love for Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) prompting him to retreat to his simple existence amongst his workers on the farm.


There have been many filmic adaptations of Tolstoy’s novel before, but ever one this opulent or this sensual. Simultaneously trapped in one location, while traversing the Russian hinterland, Anna Karenina is a triumph of aestheticism for director Joe Wright. Set in a dilapidated theatre the camera swerves between scenes as if moving through sets on a stage. Backstage corridors turn to sidewalks and wings open up into endless fields, while the actors dance around each other in a choreography that will not let you forget either the history of this work as a theatre and ballet performance, or the history of this social class as performers.


The sumptuous production design by Sarah Greenwood is decadence defined and a feast for cinema-goers eyes. Special mention must be made of the work of Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran whose instinct to blend 19th century silhouettes with as late as 1950’s styles results in some breathtaking designs which I daresay will go down in film, and fashion, history. A tight screenplay by the celebrated Tom Stoppard subdues this tome to a highly watchable piece for modern audiences.

The remarkably stunning Knightley will have her detractors but it is impossible to say that she has not approached this role with conviction and passion. Law is almost unrecognisable as Karenin, but this reviewer was particularly engaged by relative newcomer Domhnall Gleeson who brought a sweet sense of humility to Levin.


Passion, betrayal, lust, and tragedy – Anna Karenina is one hell of a rollicking Valentine’s date. Exploring love in all its forms this above par historical romance might just be the date night trick for budding new romances. As long as reality doesn’t mimic fiction…

Anna Karenina is in Cinemas now.


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Category: Film & TV

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