In 19th century Russia, an affair threatens to bring down the life of a young woman torn by the promise of love.
English director Joe Wright
took on Leo Tolstoy’s
much adapted novel in 2012 and managed to present a unique visual approach which breathed new life into this century old tale.Anna Karenina
is an unusual film but that is where its strengths lie. The focus on visual delights and intense choreography help to distract the audience from a story they’ve likely seen before. Not incidentally, this also means it’s one of the most attractive films of the last twelve months, earning cinematographer Seamus McGarvey
a well-deserved Oscar nomination.Joe Wright
remains one of the most interesting directors working today, never afraid to take on material which could cripple the careers of a lesser filmmaker. From TV roots, he made a big splash with theatrical debut Atonement
in 2007 and has never quite regained that level of commercial success - from Pride & Prejudice
to the disappointing The Soloist
. 2011s Hanna
remains one of the most unique action efforts in recent years, a film utterly unconcerned with the regular rhythms of the genre or the studio system.Karenina
is his latest near experiment, taking elements from musicals and combining them with a self-aware, openly theatrical presentation (complete with scenes changes and exposed stagecraft) to create something fresh and engaging.
Frequent collaborator Kiera Knightley
takes on the title role and reigns her more exaggerated quirks to give a commanding performance. It’s a difficult role, one which has to keep the audience onside while engaging in less than savoury behaviour but she holds it all together, even while partaking in some over the top dance numbers.
Support is strong as well, from the striking Aaron Taylor-Johnson
to a slimy but justified Jude Law
and some light relief in the form of Matthew Macfadyen
. And young Domhnall Gleeson
makes a big impression in a role he makes his own, as a contrary example of one who is forced to leave his love behind.Anna Karenina
was all but ignored in cinemas, recouping just $49 million on a budget of more than $30 million. It’s a shame to see a film this suited to the cinema not recognised and unfortunate that so many will never get to see it on the big screen. But I urge you to seek it out on home video in order to drink in the visual and aural delight Joe Wright
has prepared with this period romance.Extras:
The DVD is bare bones (sadly all too common on Universal disks these days) but thankfully there’s more on BR, starting with a commentary from director Joe Wright. There are also several deleted scenes, a making of and featurettes.