I went to see ‘Anna Karenina‘ (2012) on Sunday and… I highly recommend it!
As mentioned in my last post*, you need to mentally/emotionally prepare yourself for this unique style (not sure if it’s actually unique but it’s not what I’m used to in period dramas) of filmography. Don’t go in expecting a period drama that will transport you to 19th Century Russia like all other ‘Anna Karenina‘ films. Don’t expect costume accuracy. Don’t expect extensive dialogue either. If you’ve seen some other Joe Wright directed films starring Keira Knightley (i.e. ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement‘), expect many scenes that focus on the thoughts/feelings of the heroine. I went into the theatre expecting very little from the film. I came out greatly satisfied. 🙂 Even my initial fear of Keira ruining Anna Karenina (not that I dislike her as an actress – see my previous post* for more info) was dispelled. I had already seen her portray a similar heroine in ‘The Duchess‘ and ‘The Edge of Love‘ – both of which I loved – so Anna was not an entirely unfamiliar role for Keira to play. Maybe it wasn’t perfect but I’m not quite sure which other actress could play her…
What to expect from the movie and how to prepare yourself:
- Sets – First thing to do is accept the fact that you’re basically watching a play, except it’s a “theatre play – movie”. Sometimes you’ll be taken backstage, sometimes you’ll be watching the stage, and sometimes you’ll actually step out into somere in ‘Russia’. Nevertheless, quite pleasing to the eye.
- Costumes – As mentioned before, these are not period-accurate costumes. Imagine haute couture costumes with 1950’s and Victorian influences.
- Dance Scenes – As a [recreational] dancer, I pay quite a bit of attention to dance scenes in period dramas. I’d expected (which I should not have done) a proper Viennese waltz scene but suddenly, I was watching an interesting waltz-like variation with lots of arm and hand movements that reminded me of a ballet waltz.
- Score – It’s Dario Marianelli. Rather lively with a bit of Russian influence.
- Story – Because I haven’t read the novel yet (which I do plan to, I assure you!), I can’t say how much was added, changed or not included. However, having already seen the ‘Anna Karenina’ with Vivien Leigh, I’d already expected a tragic sad ending. Whereas AK (1948) left me very depressed, AK (2012) left me with oh-too-many-emotions. I was sad, of course, but partly content with a peaceful ending. I wasn’t fully content because I wanted to see a more devastated Count Vronsky. Oh well, the book shall just have to fill me in!
Characters & Period Drama Actors
There were lots of familiar faces in Anna Karenina, all of whom I’d seen in at least one period drama:
- Kitty (Alicia Vikander) = Queen Caroline Mathilde in A Royal Affair
- Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) = Younger Eisenheim in The Illusionist
- Karenin (Jude Law) = Dr Watson in Sherlock Holmes, Hugo’s father in Hugo
- Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) = Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, Prior Philip in The Pillars of the Earth, etc.
- Countess Vronsky (Olivia Williams) = Jane Austen in Miss Austen Regrets
- Princess Betsy (Ruth Wilson) = Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre (2006)
- Princess Myagkaya (Michelle Dockery) = Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
- Countess Lydia Ivanovna (Emily Watson) = The mother in The Water Horse (set in 1940’s), also in other period dramas
It was quite interesting to see familiar faces and to see how some of them were so transformed, that they were nearly unrecognisable. Ok, maybe it’s just Ruth Wilson. 😛
Here’s an interactive guide to the characters’ relationship by Focus Features:
Lastly, I recommend that you read CBC’s In Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, all the world’s a stage. Then you’ll understand that Mr Wright wasn’t interested in historical reenactment but showing period dramas as a sort of fantasy.
- *Last post: Anna Karenina: Keira Knightley’s version
- FILM REVIEW: Anna Karenina and A Royal Affair (ameliaadamo.com)