Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie with Abe: Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
Directed by Joe Wright
Released November 9, 2012

Keira Knightley seems to like literature. This marks her third cinematic collaboration with director Joe Wright, who previously brought the classic “Pride and Prejudice” to the screen in 2005 and then the more recent novel “Atonement” in 2007. Knightley and Wright, along with some of Wright’s regular crew members, like cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and composer Dario Marianelli, reteam to adapt Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 epic about a woman in a respected social position whose burning desire for forbidden love leads her to follow her heart and risk the devastating consequences.

Knightley is well-versed in carrying period pieces, and “Anna Karenina” is a stacked production with plenty of working parts. At its center is Knightley’s Anna, the wife of Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), who is drawn to Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Count Vronsky after meeting him during a visit to Moscow to see her brother, the mustachioed Oblonsky (Matthew Macfayden). While Anna and Vronsky begin their affair, Oblonsky’s kindhearted friend Konstantin Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) works up the courage to woo Kitty (Alicia Vikander), the former object of Vronky’s attention. This majestic, tragic tale of interwoven love is gorgeously told with spirited performances from each of the cast members. Gleeson, a dead ringer for his father, actor Brendan, and Vikander are especially wonderful, and Kelly Macdonald shines in a small part as Oblonsky’s wife Dolly, whose discovery of her husband’s marital indiscretion sets the film’s events in motion.

“Anna Karenina” opens memorably with a swiftly-changing background, setting up the story and its many outdoor settings as painted slates adorning a stage. Most of the film is structured in such a manner, imagining its transitions as set changes and often following just one or two characters as they move through a sea of stillness, animating those around them only as they pass. This technique, which starts to disappear as the film nears its end, gives the film a certain playful feel, paired with Marianelli’s sweeping score to set the film to a rhythmic beat. That deliberate structuring serves to underscore Anna’s break from an established routine, identifying her as an outlier, not content to conform to societal expectations. Adorned with marvelous costumes and especially countless stylish hats, “Anna Karenina” is a visual masterpiece to behold, decorating its events with appropriate lavishness. Watching and digesting the film’s luscious visuals and creative style enhance the grand tale it tells. This literary adaptation is a highly competent and extremely worthwhile vision of a classic story.


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