Anna Karenina reviews

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6501
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Anna Karenina reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:01 pm

Variety

Anna Karenina
(U.K.-U.S.)
By Leslie Felperin

Eschewing the classical realism that's characterized most adaptations of Tolstoy's source novel, helmer Joe Wright makes the generally inspired decision to stylize his dark, expressionist take on "Anna Karenina." Setting most of the action in a mocked-up theater emphasizes the performance aspects of the characters' behavior, a strategy enhanced by lead thesp Keira Knightley's willingness to let her neurotic Anna appear less sympathetic than in previous incarnations. Bowing Sept. 7 in Blighty after its Toronto preem, "Anna" is well-placed to gain admiring awards looks, especially in craft categories, but its covert anti-romanticism may limit appeal beyond specialty auds.
Despite the film's formal innovations, scripter Tom Stoppard's screenplay tracks fairly closely to the narrative roadmap laid out in Tolstoy's 1873 book. As the story opens, Anna Karenina (Knightley) is married to stiff Imperial minister Karenin (Jude Law), with whom she has a son, 8-year-old Serozha (Oskar McNamara). She's seduced by handsome, young cavalry officer Prince Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the two fall insanely in love. But the affair becomes a scandal in St. Petersburg society, and Karenin is forced to throw down an ultimatum: Anna can have Vronsky and live with him in exile but never see her son again, or stay with her husband and child if she obeys the rules of discretion that tacitly govern adulterous liaisons in high society.

The main love-triangle plot is plaited with an account of gentleman farmer and Tolstoy-avatar Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a strand given short shrift in most other film versions. A friend of Anna's brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen, offering amusing comic relief), Levin wishes to marry pretty Princess Kitty (Alicia Vikander, luminous), who refuses Levin at first, thinking herself in love with Vronsky. But Vronsky abandons Kitty as soon as he meets Anna, a transference neatly symbolized by the partner-swapping in the key ballroom scene, intricately choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to make the dancers look like graceful automatons. Further down the line, Kitty and Levin discover a love that's built of stronger, more hard-wearing stuff.

Wright's decision to stage much of the aristocratic action in a stage-like space -- complete with illusionistic drop curtains, catwalks and flies crowded with costumed stagehands -- may confuse some auds. But it starts to make sense when an opened door unexpectedly reveals an actual landscape in scenes concerning Levin, the character least swayed by social norms. The courtly circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow, by contrast, are all about artifice, a perpetual theater that affords no real privacy, where everyone is always on view, like the doll houses that crop up frequently as motifs in the Oblonsky household. Even the trains, so crucial to the story, morph between obvious life-size mock-ups and toy-train sets, encrusted with fake powdery snow.

The title role offers one of the literary canon's juiciest parts for femme thesps wishing to show off displays of passion, pride, guilt, madness and the ability to cry on cue. In its more than 25 film incarnations, the character has been played by Greta Garbo (in 1927 and '35), Vivien Leigh (1948) and Soviet star Tatyana Samoilova (1967). Knightley has some mighty fancy court shoes to fill as she steps into the role.

Once again demonstrating that Wright knows how to get the best from Knightley (arguably her best work has been in "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement"), the actress's angular beauty, declamatory line delivery and air of self-doubt all work in her favor here. Knightley's Anna is a silly little flirt, playing at being a romantic heroine, but incapable of thinking through the endgame. Not unlike her turn as Sabina Spielrein in "A Dangerous Method," this is a femme more tortured than pleasured by her own uncontrollable desires.

Taylor-Johnson squares up well with Knightley, initially swaggering around town like a randy "It Boy," and then quietly terrified and out of his depth when her jealous rages blossom. But their mutual self-absorption makes them harder to root for as a couple, which diminishes the emotional wallop expected from the material. Making Anna and Vronsky less likable creates more sympathy for Levin, and humanizes Law's frigid but still wounded Karenin, one of the thesp's best efforts yet at roughing up his old pretty-boy image. Nevertheless, the pic feels unmistakably chilly, and not just because of all the snow.

Technically, however, this "Anna" is glorious, from Seamus McGarvey's bejeweled lensing and Dario Marianelli's delicate score, to Sarah Greenwood's exquisite Faberge-egg production design. Layered thick with detail, her sets go hand-in-calf-leather-glove with Jacqueline Durran's striking costumes, which blend period-accurate skirt silhouettes and haberdashery with 1950s bodice shapes and accents. There's something particularly evocative in the way Anna's outfits favor asymmetric detailing, lending her easily unbalanced personality a touch of 2012 modernity.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6501
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Anna Karenina reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:42 pm

Screen Daily

Anna Karenina
3 September, 2012 | By Mark Adams, chief film critic


Dir: Joe Wright. UK. 2012. 130mins


A bold, evocative and stimulating theatrical – in many senses of the word – version of Leo Tolstoy’s much filmed novel, Joe Wright’s vision of this obsessive love story set against the opulent backdrop of high society in imperial Russia in the 1870s will challenge audience expectations while also thrill those willing to go along with the swirling cinematic style.

While the story is a familiar one the new production at very least offers a bold, stirring and at times entrancing version.
Anna Karenina, which opens in the UK on September 7 prior to a North American premiere at Toronto, also features a captivating lead performance by Keira Knightley as Anna. A lyrical and elegant production, the clever staging brings the best out of Tom Stoppard intelligent, amusing and complex script, and while the structure and affectations may not appeal to purists it allows Wright to tell an epic love story in a lush and sumptuous manner.

It is the third time she and Wright have worked together – she also starred in his films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement – and he clearly brings out the best in her. Knightley is an actress who divides opinion, but there is no denying the camera loves her face and in period frocks there in no one to beat her. Her Anna impressive here – strikingly beautiful when filmed in a veil looking longingly at a young man who captures her heart, but also driven by a fierce logic and intelligence that makes her want to strive for the love she thinks she deserves even though deep down she knows she can never survive the harsh glare of society.

Beautiful Anna Karenina is married to staid but loyal Karenin (a buttoned-up Jude Law, whose solidity is the perfect balance to Anna’s wilfulness), a high-ranking government official, and they have a young son and a strong social standing in St Petersburg. Called to Moscow by her errant brother Oblonsky (a terrific performance by Matthew Macfadyen, offering genial comedy to the role), whose philandering ways have final caused havoc to his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), and he hopes Anna can try and ease the problems between them.

On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Countess Vronsky (Olivia Williams) who is met at the station by her son, dashing cavalry officer Count Vronsky (played with youthful enthusiasm by a blonde-haired moustache-twirling Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When they are introduced there is an instant attraction between Vronsky and her.

Also visiting the Oblonsky household is his best friend Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a sensitive – and therefore heavily bearded and with long, lank, hair – landowner who plans to ask Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) to marry him. But she is entranced by Vronsky, who leaves her heartbroken at a lavish ball when he pursues Anna. Levin leaves from his Pokrovskoe estate, determined to work the land and forget Kitty.

Anna returns to St Petersburg, but Vronsky follows her with the two eventually embarking on a passionate affair that scandalises St Petersburg society and finally places Karenin in a position where he must give his wife an ultimatum…to put the affair aside and return to him and their son, or to lose her place in society. While Anna thinks she can have everything – a love affair, her place in society and her son – but there are terrible consequences to her obsessive romance.

Forsaking traditional sets and locations, for much of the film the story is set within a massive and rather rambling theatre – there are scenes that emphasise the expanse of Russia, particularly when the film focuses on Levin’s farm – with scenes set on the stage itself as well as in the lower levels, elevated rigging, mirrored galleries and against painted backdrops.

And for much of the first half of the film Wright keeps things moving with a real sense of energy, to the degree that it is only when Anna returns to St Petersburg that the rhythm settles to a more modest pace. Particularly striking early in the film is the opulent ball where Vronsky and Anna first dance, with original and rather erotic (though never overt) choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui helping give the film a strange and wonderful quality.

Beautifully shot by Seamus McGarvey (a rather change of pace and style from Marvel’s The Avengers) and with elegant production design by Sarah Greenwood, Anna Karenina is likely to divide opinion – in a similar way Keira Knightley seems to divide audiences – but while the story is a familiar one the new production at very least offers a bold, stirring and at times entrancing version. It is long certainly, and at times the Levin subplot hampers the flow of the story, but the performances are all impressive and as stories of obsessive love go it is a gripping and moving film.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6501
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Anna Karenina reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:36 pm

This seems to be dividing along "you either buy the concept or you don't" lines.

Anna Karenina: Toronto Review
6:36 PM PDT 9/6/2012 by Todd McCarthy

Focus FeaturesThe Bottom Line
Bold adaptation of Tolstoy ultimately feels too artificial and deterministic.

The weight of its intellectual distancing device presses much of the life and feeling out of Joe Wright's and Tom Stoppard's adventurous adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Dazzlingly designed and staged in a theatrical setting so as to suggest that the characters are enacting assigned roles in life, this tight and pacy telling of a 900 page-plus novel touches a number of its important bases but lacks emotional depth, moral resonance and the simple ability to allow its rich characters to experience and drink deeply of life. The miscasting of the male romantic lead is also a problem in this intelligent and in some ways estimable attempt to make a different sort of romantic costume drama, one that will inspire sufficient curiosity and praise to make the grade as a solid upscale late autumn release for Focus Features.

our editor recommends
Style Notes: Banana Republic Does 'Anna Karenina,' Taylor Swift Releases Second Fragrance'Anna Karenina': Keira Knightley Struggles With Love in New Trailer (Video)Focus Features to Distribute Director Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina'One of the many ways Tolstoy's 1877 novel is so great is that it delves into all the stages and forms of life and love, from their exalted beginnings to stagnation and demise and everything in between. For reasons of length, most of the dozen film adaptations, including the 1927 and 1935 Hollywood versions starring Greta Garbo and the 1948 British edition with Vivien Leigh, focus on the adulterous love affair between the married Anna and the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky and cast aside the parallel story of landowner Levin's quest for a meaningful path in life.

Stoppard's concentrated adaptation happily finds room for Levin along with everyone else on the literal theater stage that serves as the starting point and home base for this drama of passion and society. Director Wright runs with the concept, not, fortunately, in the over-the-top Baz Luhrmann manner, but it in a way that is arresting, mannered, gorgeous, stifling, surprising and facile by turns. No matter how stimulating it can be to behold, however, ultimately the artificial settting makes the nature of the film antithetical to that of the novel; whereas the book is sprawling, searching and realistic, the film is constricted, deterministic and counterfeit.

To be sure, Wright, who broke in as a feature director with his sterling literary adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, both with Keira Knightley, cracks the visual whip in his role as ringmaster, propelling the camera through a combination of unvarnished backstage spaces, theater sets, elaborately designed film settings and, infrequently but liberatingly, outdoor locations, some of them actually shot in Russia. Much of the action, from intimate love scenes to ballroom dances, appears choreographed and the dialogue delivery often feels arch and slightly stylized.

“Sin has a price, you may be sure of that,” successful politician Karenin (Jude Law) tells his beautiful wife of nine years, Anna (Knightley). She is about to find out for herself. Devoted to her son Serozha (Oskar McNamara) but living a dutiful life of privilege in St. Petersburg society, she is immediately smitten upon locking eyes with the handsome officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) at the train station in Moscow, where she has come to console the wife, Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) of her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen), who's been caught cheating with their children's nanny.

With the numerous important characters dashing on and offstage and establishing themselves solely on the basis of deft instant impressions, rural denizen Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) turns up to ask Dolly's sweet younger sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) to marry him. Rejecting him because she's entranced by Vronsky, Kitty is herself spurned at a grand ball by Vronsky, who takes the occasion to move in on Anna.

The exquisite wife hesitates for a time but capitulation is inevitable, just as is her husband's eventual discovery of the truth, which sends Anna into a sort of exile with her lover and, in short order, ostracism from society. Unfortunately, he first part of the story as whipped together here is more compelling than the latter, as the deterioration of Anna and Vronsky's relationship is too compressed and insufficiently detailed.

More than that, Taylor-Johnson is simply too young and one-dimensional to play a man of such reputation and sway. Often described as “callow,” Vronsky is certainly that in the hands of this actor, who was only 21 at the time of filming and lacks the weight and presence to convince as such a commanding figure; dying his hair blond only furthers his problems in a role played more authoritatively in earlier productions by the likes of Fredric March and Sean Connery.

Enough of Anna's romantic anguish over her ultimate fate probably remains to draw in younger audiences being exposed to this story for the first time. For the more academically inclined, there is a measure of interest simply on the basis of Wright's bold decision to impose the artificiality of the theatrical setting, to see what does and doesn't play. As intriguing as it may be in big set pieces such as the ball and in small details such as a child's toy train suddenly becoming a full-sized one on which crucial scenes are played out, the technique becomes palpably constricting in the second half, where the abridgments of Stoppard's script become all too noticeable.

Knightley gives Anna a decent shot but she lacks the mature beauty and inner radiance described in the novel; of all contemporary actresses, Marion Cotillard would come closest to an ideal Anna. Deglamorized, with glasses and a receding hairline, Law makes for a composed and accessible Karenin who's not too priggish and boring. Vikander, the star of the upcoming Danish costumer A Royal Affair, is a fine Kitty, red-headed and bearded Gleeson grows nicely into a sympathetic Levin (the sort-of Tolstoy figure) and Macfadyen excels as a vigorous, non-fuddy-duddyish Oblonsky.

From a craft and technical point of view, the film is immaculate, if inevitably somewhat airless and suffocating. It scores significant points for departing from the period piece norm but crucial components have been sacrificed in the process.


Return to “2012”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest