In 19th century Russia, Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) has been caught out by wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), for having a clandestine relationship with a member of staff. In an effort to rectify the issue, he calls upon his sister Anna (Keira Knightley) to come and secure their marriage. Safe in her marriage, and content Anna is the ideal person to put things back together, but distance from her husband Alexi (Jude Law), and an encounter with the mysterious Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) is about to turn all of that on its head.
Director Joe Wright has always had a unique vision when it comes to filmmaking, his 2011 movie Hanna looks like an over-long music video. It had strength in its visuals, and an impressive delivery; but above all other things it was the look and feel that made Hanna a hit. Anna Karenina takes his journey another step forward, almost reaching into the territory of Baz Luhrmann, as his tale of 19th century love and portrayal against a Russian backdrop, effectively takes to the stage. While its fades into the distance as the movie progresses, the opening visuals clearly set on a stage, or maybe a pop-up book, really stay with you. Asa the locations move period dressed characters step onto the stage and move items off, and new sets on. Combine this, with again the feeling that you are watching a music video, and Anna Karenina is different from the normal, but not unfamiliar in modern cinema.
Wright and Tom Stoppard take Leo Tolstoy’ s acclaimed novel and sexes it up to a degree it has never been seen before. Mixing the visuals and adding some much needed humour, the duo try to bridge the age gap that Ana Karenina would naturally cause, trying not to just appeal to the over 30’s audience, but lure in a younger fanbase.
The story of Anna Karenina was always very much a tale very much ahead of its time; it focuses on the subject of adultery, and forbidden romance. While taking into account the moral issues of the time (when the original novel was written) and essentially mocks the ridiculousness of some of its practices.
To watch Anna Karenina is not the painful arduous task you may expect, there is a percentage of the audience (a high number) that will look at the movie and complete dismiss it, this would be a mistake, and Anna Karenina is more than just the sum of its parts. To begin with you have a very youthful cast all of whom ensure that while keeping the story straight, make s sure it does not get to heavy. Then you have Wright’s unique vision, which includes a rather surprising dismemberment, and the most ridiculously absurd dance routine you will ever have seen in a “straight” piece of filmmaking.
With a running time of 130 minutes, Anna Karenina does have rather a lot going against it, but it’s a remarkably well handled piece, that mixes up the traditional story, never plays too long on one particular scene, and plays out like a television serial with plenty of cliffhanger moments to keep you engaged in the story.
Anna Karenina is in UK cinemas now.