Regular audience member and film reviewer Sam James has been to see the new adaptation of Anna Karenina at Light House this weekend and here is what he thought. Anna Karenina is showing until Thursday 20 September – if you come to see it why not leave us your review by commenting on this post?
A lot like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare and their works, Leo Tolstoy’s work has been numerously adapted onto the big screen and other various sources over the years, primarily his 1877 Russian novel Anna Karenina. The story has mostly been released as an English-language film as opposed to its original language – Russian. In 2012, we are given another version of the novel with Keira Knightley in the leading role as she made her third consecutive collaboration with director Joe Wright following Pride And Prejudice in 2005 and Atonement in 2007. Their work together has been all-in-all success but unfortunately, despite that it is decent enough to endure for 2 hours, it did have quite a few missing pieces.
Director Joe Wright has always been a director with maintaining a bold, colourful effect. In Anna Karenina, he blends a very similar style of direction as Baz Luhrmann (in particular Moulin Rouge!) Therefore, in that sense, it focused on establishing a connection between a theatre-based fantasy and the real world dealing with the ups and downs of personal relationships. It is genuinely difficult to blend in those together, especially when it is an adaptation based on a novel in a different language and territory. Quite frankly, Anna Karenina falls into an easily occurred trap. It tended to focus a little too much on the visual appearance, which resulted a serious lack of emotional depth in the story and the attribution to the original source. Therefore, the most important keys had become the second-rate level of importance.
Keira Knightley continues in her costume-drama trademark with Joe Wright as she portrayed young Aristocrat Anna Karenina. You could quite easily establish that Knightley performs in a role that is related too much to Pride And Prejudice and Atonement, but this time, we see a slightly different actress. Finally, at 27 years old, Knightley has transformed from roles as a young girl into a more mature role as a grown woman; more essentially as a mother and a wife with responsibilities. Furthermore, Knightley successfully grasped the essential emotional-breakdown points and gives a good performance. This was not worthy of an Academy Award win for Best Leading Actress but it is still another one for us to remember. Kick-Ass actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson (formerly Aaron Johnson) took on the role of the charming and somewhat irresistible Count Vronsky. Unfortunately, he seems out of place in the entire film, let alone the character he played. He looked way too young and had the approach of a creepy, sexually possessed stalker. Furthermore, the chemistry between Anna and Vronsky was very dry. You’d think it was a woman having a romantic relationship with a teenager. And what was with that moustache? It may have been there to give Taylor-Johnson a manlier, older approach but it still provided a very forced touch for this specific actor to fit into this character.
On the plus side in terms of acting, Matthew MacFayden and Kelly MacDonald delivered solid performances Oblonsky, Anna’s brother, and his wife Dolly. We see different aspects of married relationships in Anna Karenina, but the most fascinating romance is the partial sub-plot between Konstantin Levin (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (acted by Alicia Vikander). Over and over in films based in a historical setting, we see love as an arrangement or as a duty but Levin’s feelings for Kitty are true love, and their performances were superb. Finally, there is Jude Law where age is slowly catching up with him as he portrayed Anna’s bitter husband Count Alexei Karenin. Our first impressions of this guy were that he is a very shallow and passionless man who hardly gave his wife the time of day at all. However, we see a traumatised, emotionally confused and occasionally dangerous Alexei. Nevertheless, Jude Law is easily the stand-out of this film.
You could name quite a few number of film adaptations based on books that could not have turned out any better, but almost the entire production of Anna Karenina became a severe blow for it. The fact that it is a British made and performed project set in Russia, based on a Russian novel by a Russian author; it just did not entirely fit. Quite frankly, Anna Karenina could have been as strong as recent historical drama A Royal Affair if the film stuck to its original roots and, therefore, improvised. Still, it was not entirely a bad film as there were still some solid performances and left the audience something to think about.