Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina was one of my most anticipated films in 2012 for the following reasons: 1) my love for period pieces, 2) my appreciation of the unforgettable collaboration of the director and the high-cheek boned actress Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, and 3) my recent completion of reading Leo Tolstoy’s bulky classic. When I finally found the time to see this film released in the end of 2012, most theatres have long removed the title except for the small village cinema across the corner of my town.
I felt sorry for my company, who anticipated to see the dazzling revival of the Imperial Russia. What Wright did was creating a miniature of the 19th century society in a studio in England with intricate theatrical sets with cardboards and a stage. The actors frequently switched their roles as the players and audience. I have seen other films that attempted blending the mechanics of theatrical play and screen films (e.g. Nicole Kidman’s Dogville) but by far, Wright’s adaptation of the Russian classic is the most stylistic one I have seen.
Everyone must know the story. Anna Karenina, the beautiful wife of a highly esteemed Russian aristocrat, slowly descends into destruction as she begins a blind affair with the young and handsome Count Vronsky. As soon as I finished the novel I posted my afterthoughts on why she deserved such a tragic ending. There has been a controversy on Keira Knightley’s suitability for the role but I did think her natural impression did fit into the passionate heroine.
As the much deserved recipient for the Academy Award for Costume Design, the film simply took my breath away every time Anna changes her dress for each scene. My personal favourite was the snowy Wedding-dressy costume chosen for the doomed Opera scene.
Another thing I loved about the movie was the beautiful score by Dario Marianelli, who has also worked with Wright in the previous Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. I admired the debutant Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the dashing Vronsky. Just like in the book, Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (Alicia Vikander) make an absolutely adorable couple. With all things considered, I was happy the new onscreen version of the beloved classic, despite other viewers who expected more.