Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Anna Karenina 2012

I saw Anna Karenina this week with a group of girlfriends. Not having the time to go out afterward for our usual "gab about the film over coffee", I have been mulling it over alone for a few days now.  What did I think of the film? Hmmmm. I find it difficult to answer.

First of all, if you enjoy period drama you should definitely see this film. I can even say that I will purchase this on DVD to have in my collection. But I have to say that I want to see it again more for the spectacle and the costumes and the ingenious set design than for the story.

I will qualify this by saying that I have not read the book Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, touted as one of the best novels of all time. I do however, really want to read the novel now. And I want to see the film again after I have read the book and see if I feel differently about it. That is a recommendation for the film right there isn't it?

The acting is superb. Keira Knightley does an amazing job as Anna Karenina. She is luminous onscreen and her descent into inevitable madness is riveting. Matthew McFadyen is wonderful as Anna's brother. Very odd to see he and Keira Knightley dancing together as brother and sister, having the image of Lizzy and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice 2005 stuck firmly in my head, but he is wonderful as the philandering brother. Jude Law is appropriately cold and detached as Anna's husband Karenin. But I don't think you will be emotionally attached to these characters because there isn't time for character development, even though it clocks in at just over 2 hours long.

But I really did like it. The music was lovely, the costumes were to die for. Oh, the hats and the veils alone are worth the price of admission. And I think that Joe Wright can now be viewed as a singularly talented director. This was a real risk and he pulled it off admirably.

I think my only quibble is the same one I would level at Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. These books are just too long to be squeezed into 2 hours. If he could have been given the length of a miniseries to do this, it might have involved me more in the story, as one who knew little of the plot ahead of time. But in the time allotted, this is a truly wonderful film. And if it gets a lot of us to read the book, what more can we ask?

P.S. Try not to be too distracted by the familiar actors from other beloved films. Points to anyone who can spot William the ill fated footman from Downton Abbey in this. Much easier to spot Lady Mary (and Moaning Myrtle and Jane Eyre and Mary Maceachran and Elsie the housemaid and Jane Fairfax and...)


  1. This film is very impressive visually. I love the costumes! It also makes me want to read the book.

    1. I think there will be a lot of us reading the book. It must be wonderful to have been read and loved by so many. Not to mention adapted for film multiple times in various languages. Perhaps on my new e-reader!

  2. Hi Jenny,
    Your review is on par with what I have read from the critics. Visually stunning, but not very engaging. I find that to be often the case with film versions of Tolstoy's work. It may be that there are just too many characters as you say to fit into a 2 hr. film format. But then again why not make it a 3 hour film? I think movie makers have been leery of long movies ever since Ishtar. (by the way, I took the kids to see The Hobbit this weekend. We loved it, but there's an example of a film which really should have been 2 hours rather than 3).

    Have you seen the Greta Garbo version of Anna Karenina? It's really good, but they left out many of the characters and focused on Anna, Sergei, Karenin and and Vronsky, which is likely the key, if you're going to make a 2 hour-ish film.

    I am still really looking forward to seeing Anna Karenina. The costumes and set design, alone, are enough:)

    1. Hi Olga, I hope you enjoy Anna Karenina. I look forward to seeing it again. Perhaps I should see the Greta Garbo version too. I know it is very famous.
      I will be going to see The Hobbit. Glad to hear you loved it. Must see Richard Armitage as a dwarf and I think Stephen Fry is in it too isn't he? Perhaps I will take a large Timmies in with me to keep me awake for 3 hours!!

  3. I thought Anna Karenina was visually stunning - I loved the way each scene was shot, as if on a stage, and the fluidity between scenes and the choreographed movements of the actors made it a joy to watch. However, there was something flat about it and I found myself getting bored with the story. I did, however, have to fight the urge to snatch Keira's necklaces from her pretty neck! The costumes were fabulous!




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