Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Joe Wright
This is probably the most visually interesting film I’ve seen this year. Keira Knightly delivers an emotional performance as the title character, living in 1870s Russia and dealing with the social etiquette of that time. Tolstoy’s heart breaking novel, commenting on Russian society of his time, is a surprising choice for a movie, but Joe Wright brings the elegance of the novel to life. As a married Russian socialite, Anna has to uphold certain values in her lifestyle, so when temptation comes falls into her path in the form of Aaron Johnson-Taylor’s Vronsky, her world is turned upside down.
The incredible use of theatre-come-film set making and the transitions between scenes are like nothing I’ve seen before. Building a city in the stalls and setting up a room around the character, just gives this film that little bit more awe, as we see Anna’s world literally building up and falling down around her. This style of set allows for incredible camera movements, we see characters peering down from the lighting bridge onto the stage viewing the secrets of the society, our high angle shots, therefore are allowed to swoop from one characters point of view to another. Longer takes are allowed as the set is moved around the camera, not the other way around.
Lighting both hides and reveals Anna’s secrets to the audience, it emphasises the feeling of the whole room looking at you in high society, through the spotlight literally being on her. Anna’s happiness moments are in brilliant light, away from the stage, away from the eyes of society, while her darker days are literally in the dark, onstage, for everyone to see. Moments with her husband are always onstage, her marriage under the scrutiny of society, she can’t escape judgement from her peers. Anna Karenina is trapped. Trapped by her marriage, trapped by society, trapped by her love. In this we watch her life spiral out of control, due to the constraints on her love.
If you love elegance, if you love heart break, if you love tragedy, you will love this film. Think Victorian type society ideals to the extreme, mixed with the harsh background of cold Russia, and a woman in love with the wrong man caught in the middle of it all.