|Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina|
Oh, how I sighed with disappointment. The majority of the film was set in a theatre, presumably to mirror the theatricality of 19th century Russian society, against which the story of love and adultery unfolds – a seemingly inspired concept, updating a story that could easily slip into the tepid territory of traditional costume drama. In reality, such highly choreographed set changes taking place within one space, as flamboyant and energetic as they were, conflicted completely with the story. After all, is Anna Karenina not considered to be one of the great masterpieces of the Realist movement? For a few brief scenes, the action strayed outside of the theatre, but the significance of these interludes was unclear, therefore losing any symbolism that had been intended. Besides, had this been a low-budget film such ingenuity ought to be commended, but as a purely creative decision it failed.
Visually, the film was gorgeous, but what else could be expected from the director who gave us that emerald dress in Atonement and those ‘Coco Mademoiselle’ commercials? I have always been a fan of Joe Wright’s artistic eye for colour and composition alongside his storytelling, though, in this case, style triumphed over substance. For me, the film was devoid of any emotion, which this famous tragedy could have offered; it was like flicking through the pages of Vogue: I my interest was vaguely enticed, but I was ultimately left unsatisfied.
As well as showing off Jacqueline Durran’s exquisite costumes to perfection, Keira Knightley’s performance as Anna was solid, though much the same as her role in the 2008 film The Duchess. The real revelation was Jude Law’s portrayal of her long-suffering husband Alexei Karenin, who managed to be unlikeable, whilst at the same time commanding almost as much sympathy as the heroine. However, this was not enough to engage or even to ebb the tedium which began to steal over me as one scene affectedly changed to the next.
|Jude Law as Alexei Karenin|
Finally, the train came. But it was at least half an hour too late, leaving in its path a tangled mess of subplots, the torn shreds of a Tolstoy novel and the fragments of a pretty perfume advert. Contrary to the ideas of the author, “Great works of art are only great because they are accessible and comprehensible to everyone”, I found this film confusing, even as a natural English speaker, and can only imagine how Jenny was feeling by the end. Still, I am determined to read it. Perhaps I will give myself a few months' distance from this adaptation, but I will read Anna Karenina and this time I won’t rely on a middle-man to intervene between the text and my imagination.