To call Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” beautiful would be an understatement. It is stunning in every way.
In this overtly symbolic reimagining of Tolstoy’s epic love story, this familiar tale is shrunk down to a more palatable size, but loses none of its grandness.
Filmed almost entirely inside an old abandoned theater, we see the space transformed into everything from a dance hall to a train station and even a race track.
When we do venture to the great outdoors (the Russian country side), it’s a welcome change from the cramped rooms and crowded grand ballrooms of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The message behind this visual contrast is about as subtle as a freight train to the gut, but it offers some beautiful cinematography nonetheless.
Yet for all its gorgeous sets and in your face spectacle, this retelling of Tolstoy’s classic novel seems decidedly distant.
We witness the romance of Anna (Keira Knightley) and her lover Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the hurt and betrayal felt by the scorned Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), and the innocence and young love of Konstantin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (Alicia Vikander). But despite being right in the middle of the action, the players and their actions still remain a mystery. Which some might argue, is how Tolstoy would want it.
Keira Knightley as Karenina keeps us guessing. Her elegance and grace make it easy to see how Vronsky would instantly be drawn to her.
However, the true magic of her performance comes from the chemistry between her and co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky. The two are at their best in their scenes together.
Of course, a lot of the credit goes to the ridiculously talented ensemble cast featuring Matthew Macfadyen as Oblonsky, Kelly Macdonald as Dolly and Jude Law as Alexei Karenin. The smaller parts are what add depth to this classic story.
Yes, some more important plot points might be lost in all the perfectly orchestrated scene changes and elaborate choreography, but it’s hard to complain when you’re being treated to grandiose scene after grandiose scene.
It’s a tragic story told through a new lens and executed, maybe not perfectly, but definitely beautifully.
…just for fun: