|Keira Knightly and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fall in love against a surreal backdrop in Anna Karenina (2011)|
Last year in July I wrote about my expectations for the soon to be released Anna Karenina (2011) directed by the renowned Joe Wright who's obsession with Keira Knightley knows no bounds. I said that as a Russian, who was made to read Anna Karenina as if it was gospel, I couldn't bare the thought of a theatrical shit show with her and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the two principal leads.
Well I'm watching it today, and I have to say with utmost disgrace to myself and my intuition, that I was wrong, which I never am people.
|I was literally taken aback at how good this movie looked and felt.|
But this was such an interesting take on the famous story and the writing was actually up to par with a 1 1/2 hour adaptation of a 600 page novel by Tolstoy, that's saying the obvious considering the adaptation was written by Tom Stoppard. Yes it was sappy, and missed a lot of the books subtext and essential themes, but it got the jist as best as it could, and for something so highly unadaptable as that book, that's a job well done. I think perhaps maybe I understood the script better (which had it's absurd moments) because I can recite the book verbatim.
|Alicia Vikander as Princess Katerina 'Kitty' Alexandrovna|
What I was impressed most about was the supporting players. I loved Matthew McFayden as Stiva, and Alicia Vikander (keep an eye on her, she's going to be the next it-girl, mark my words) as Kitty, and of course Jude Law as the torn and embarrassed Karenin, he's absolutely brilliant and I have no idea who's genius idea it was to cast him because I think he understands the material better than anyone else. In most other adaptations Karenin is seen as the villain; the heartless brute who can't forgive and cares only about his own honor and his promises to god, but Law plays him so layered and enigmatic that you get a real sense he understands that Tolstoy wrote every character in Anna Karenina to be tortured and trapped by their own inabilities to compromise.
|My favorite adaptation remains the Vivien Leigh/Ralph Richardson one from 1948. There's a woman that could play Anna Karenina. Criterion bought it and it's on Hulu.|
I'm really starting to sound like a substitute teacher at Russian Lit 101, so I'll finish by commenting on the aesthetic. I heard that the film was done in a strangely theatrical way because they literally didn't have the money to make it a full fledged film shot on location and with meticulous attention to detail to recreate Imperial Russia. And instead of half-assing it, Joe Wright decided to take a different route, making it more of a ballet (another Russian staple) and mostly symbolic, like a fairy tale, which is essentially what Anna Karenina is; an adult fairy tale. It's supposed to be dramatic, whimsical, magical and somewhere beyond this practical world, and I think the aesthetic used captures that. All I will say that I was right about was that yeah, Keira Knightly and Aaron Taylor Johnson do not do justice to the two main characters, too young to have a grasp of the gravity of the roles their playing, and it just sucks plain and simple.
Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina (1948)