Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie Review - Anna Karenina by Joe Wright - 5 stars!

Happy Monday!

You all know that my blog is mostly about books and reading, but today I would like to share a review about an amazing movie. I went to see Anna Karenina today. I have read Lev Tolstoy's Anna Karenina more than once and have seen several movie adaption, but the newest release, directed by Joe Wright, was mesmerizing. I decided, that I want to share the movie experience with you.

Title: Anna Karenina (2012)
Director: Joe Wright
Screenplay: Tom Stoppard
Based on: Lev Tolsoty's Anna Karenina
Production: Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Working Title Films
Genre: Drama, Historical, Romance
Length: 129 minutes
Starring: Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson


Now a major motion picture starring Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Tom Stoppard.
Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

My review:

When I entered the movie theatre, I knew a lot about Tolstoy's book, but nothing about this specific movie release. I knew who were starring the movie and that was it. Usually, when going to see movies, I always check out trailers and features and interviews before actually seeing them on the big screen, but this time the title of the movie was plainly enough. I have been a big fan of classical Russian literature from very young age, so I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong in many levels.

When the opening scenes were over, I knew that this movie was very different from any other movie version of Anna Karenina. Well, it was different from any movie based on classical literary fiction! It was mesmerizing and I was hooked from the first minutes and I did not want to leave the dark room of the theatre even when the credentials were running and most of the people were leaving the room. I wanted to stay in the world that the movie makers had created!


Let me start with saying, that screenwriter Tom Stoppard kept the story very close to its original and I was very happy about it! It seemed that there was a clear understanding between the late Lev Tolstoy and the screenwriter Tom Stoppard. There were only very few places in the story when I realized, that it is slightly different from the original and even that was falling nicely to its place in the movie.

The story was dramatic, heart-wrenching and beautifully executed! It's an epic forbidden love story which takes place in the Russian aristocracy. Anna Karenina is unhappily married, but she has no greater expectations to love, at least until she meets Count Vronsky. The moment they meet, there is attraction and as much as they try to deny it, it is inevitable. It's forbidden love in the society, because Anna decides to leave her husband and asks for divorce. As the isolation from friends, family and everybody else for Anna grows, the more consumed she is by darkness. Karenin does not give her divorce and it does not matter how big the love is between Vronsky and Anna, it gets dramatic consequences.

Directing, sets, visuals, choreography, design and music:

What made this movie exceptionally unique was the fact, that director Joe Wright staged it on a theatre. Watching the movie was like watching a theatre stage where the scenes were elegantly changed as the story folded out in front of the audience. Scene after scene the settings were changed even though the room was the same. It was original and I loved it. I also realized the the only sets which were used outside of theatre were about Levin and his life on the countryside. This change was nicely balanced where you had the hectic life of Sct. Petersburg and Moscow in one side and the picturesque and slow scenes from Russian nature.

There was a lot of attention on choreography and physical contact in Anna Karenina. It was a movie where choreography was a main storyteller. It was often where choreography was substituting words and you can say that in Anna Karenina a picture told more than 1000 words. The ballroom dancing and even a simple touch was sometimes telling more than words. It was tense and filled with passion. Another thing which was special in Anna Karenina, were the close-ups. The facial impressions were as important as the huge scenes with many people.

One of the interesting visuals were the usage of lightning and colors. For example there was a clear contrasts when Anna was together with Vronsky compared to when she was with Karenin. The scenes where Anna and Vronsky spend time together are brighter and softer, and the scenes at home with Karenin, the lightning is murkier and darker. It gave some nice effects to the plot and to the mood.

I would also like to mention the design of the costumes and the music in the movie. The costumes were breathtakingly beautiful, especially the ones designed for Anna and Kitty and the music was coherent with the development of the story: the intensity of which grew in the rhythm with the drama surrounding it.

Casting and ensemble:

I liked the characters picked for the roles. Keira Knightly as Anna Karenina was a good choice. She was capable of mirroring Anna Karenina's essence showing both love, passion, courage, pain and last but not least jealousy. When Anna is consumed by isolation and jealousy and realization that the society will never forgive her, Keira Knightly gave her best to show these different reflections of woman in love and pain. I liked that a lot!

Jude Law as Karenin was faceted. I liked that he did not show Karenin as a simple man. He loved Anna on his own way and I liked that Jude Law showed his soft side combined with the religious and hurtful side. I really enjoyed the way he played Karenin.

I was surprised by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky. I have seen him in Nowhere Boy and realized that fact actually after the movie. He has matured as actor and he as Vronsky was a very good choice. He showed passion, tenderness, love and passion of a man in love.

Another surprise was Alicia Vikander as Kitty. This Swedish actress was perfect to the role. I was amazed by her grace when she played in A Royal Affair where I was stunned by her presence in acting. I loved her as Kitty, she had spark and sassyness and humbleness when she met Levin after denying him as a husband.

I also enjoyed performances of Domhnall Gleeson as Levin and Matthew Macfadyen as Oblonski.


The only minor thing that I was disturbed by and it was how the Russian names were pronounced. It sounded awkward to my ears, but this is probably because I grew up in the environment where Russian was used as a second language. I have the similar experiences with many other English spoken  movies and I do understand that Russian words and names are difficult to pronounce, but in a classical drama based on Russian literature I think this could have been improved.


I think Anna Karenina was brilliantly made bold version of Tolstoy's novel. I loved the experience and I know that I will watch it again! I highly recommend it!

5 Flowers!

5 stars!

Happy reading and movie experiences!


1 comment:

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