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A Sumptuous Feast for the Eye and Ear and Mind - BRILLIANT!
on December 5, 2012
There have been many cinematic versions of Leo Tolstoy's epic novel ANNA KARENINA but for this viewer none matches the creative excellence and power of this very different version. Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay for this adaptation and the work was directed with eye toward timeless artistry by Joe Wright. There will be some detractors who feel that cinema is cinema and stage plays are stage plays, but Wright's decision to combine the two works extraordinarily well. The flavor of Tolstoy's story and mood are maintained and yet made somehow more vital by Wright's electing to place this story as though it were happening on a theater stage (including catwalks, backstage, audience and theater boxes etc.) The story is theatrical and Wright embellishes the last of the Czarist days with great aplomb.
The story needs no summary: Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley more beautiful to behold and brilliant in acting than ever) is married to Alexei Karenin (Jude Law in a tour de force acting role) and is happy in her station with her slightly cool husband but very warm young son. Then quite unexpectedly her eyes meet those of the wealthy Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a career making turn) and their love is immediate. The flirtation is enhanced by some of the most beautiful waltzing choreography on film. We are in St. Petersburg, Russia and divorce is something only a man /husband can initiate so as the love affair reaches a point of no return Anna must decide whether to bear the shame of a divorced woman or just be the mistress of the incredibly handsome Count and remain married. In contrast to the Anna/Vronsky duet is the passion of the country lad Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) for the aristocratic Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and throughout the story the two forms of love are paralleled. Anna becomes pregnant with Vronsky's child, an act that quietly infuriates Karenin as it makes Anna's affair public - a condition no one can tolerate in that society - and subsequently results in Anna's leaving her beloved son after she gives birth to the daughter belonging to Vronsky: Karenin will care for the child. The climax comes with Anna's infamous suicide and the story ends with all loose ends tied.
The exceptionally strong supporting cast includes such fine actors as Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Ruth Wilson, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery, and Shirley Henderson. The luxuriant costumes are by Jacqueline Durran, the cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey, and the glorious musical score is by Dario Marianelli. A Stunning Film. Grady Harp, December 12