“Romantic love will be the last illusion of the old order”
Tolstoy’s tale of passion, lust and adultery is brought to the silver screen by British director Joe Wright in this 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina. The film stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Matthew McFadyen and Aaron Taylor Jonhnson, among a host of other talent.
Wright’s controversial decision to set his version of Anna Karenina in a theatre appears to have raised many eyebrows; however, this addition to the structure of the film is more of a cinematic point than plot. It does not hugely detract from the development of story but does add a layer of artistic fantasy to the characters lives; this becomes ever more powerful as we witness the psychological demise of Anna Karenina. Knightley is an unsurprising choice by Wright for the blighted heroine, as the team behind Pride & Prejudice and Atonement reunite. Similarities between the three films are noticeable, most prominently in an early ballroom scene, Anna Karenina and Count Vronksy find themselves locked in a passionate dance and all other characters in the scene disappear. This vividly echoes a moment in Wright’s Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth and Darcy, fighting the attraction between them, also fade into a world of their own.
The film seems to almost haemorrhage decadence as we are transported back to 19th Century aristocratic Russia. The costumes, in particular Anna Karenina herself, are so full of detail even the enormous Odeon cinema screen seemed to struggle to capture every jewel, pearl and fold of material. The performance of the film came from Domhnall Gleeson as Levin. His tortured soul was a source of endearment amongst a film of not entirely likeable (albeit very watchable and fascinating) characters. Matthew MacFadyen’s turn as Oblonsky gave the audience a good laugh as his bumbling adulterous nature became a surprising foil to Anna Karenina’s disturbed and passion fuelled romance with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor Johnson).
Anna Karenina is a film brimming with desire and delusion as the characters infatuations with each other lead to their mutual demise. If passion, romance, high society and ill fated beauties are to your taste then I’d recommend a visit to the cinema to soak up the glorious nature of Anna Karenina. Moments of humour are subtle, frequent and contrast well with the tragedy of overwhelming emotions that run throughout the film. Anna Karenina is, however, over two hours long, rendering you slightly uncomfortable in cinema seating, and there are moments in which it drags during the first 45 minutes. However, the final hour is a dramatic chase to the climax of the film and the life of Anna Karenina, accompanied by the powerful music of Dario Marianelli.
The brutality of human flaws comes to life once more.