Director Joe Wright brings the classic Tolstoy novel to life in a dark, theatrical manner. Wright casts his favorite leading lady, Keira Knightley as the film’s star to lead the story masterfully from start to finish.
Anna (Knightley) begins to question her marriage to Aleksei Karenin (Jude Law), but overlooks it and tries to move forward with her life and raise her young son. Anna’s brother, Oblonsky (Mr. Darcy in “Pride & Prejudice”…yea, I thought that was weird, too) and his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) have their own marriage problems. As she tries to help mend her brother’s marriage, her own is falling, and by that I mean, she’s falling into the arms of another man: Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson).
It’s to be said that Vronsky is soon to be engaged to Kitty (“A Royal Affair’s” Alicia Vikander), but that soon disappears as Anna and Vronsky grow closer. Karenin tries not to notice the growing passion his wife has for another man, but with all the gossip and sneaking away, his suspicions soon come clear.
Knightley embodies our heroine in perfect form, as a naive women, who has never experienced erotic, passionate love. This explains why she’s drawn to the young, dashing (and for some reason, bleached blonde) Vronsky. The two certainly seem to have strong affections towards one another, but is it enough for Anna to leave her family and start anew with him?
Wright uses several “one-shots” throughout the film that work beautifully. One of our opening scenes is done through one shot that lasts at least a minute long, introducing us to several of the film’s character and scenery. There is one particular scene where Anna and Vronsky are dancing in a ballroom and the camera follows them for the majority of the dance. It’s artistic and we’ve witnessed a scenes very much like it in 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice.”
Jaqueline Durran’s (“Atonement” & “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) costumes are some of the most gorgeous of the year and she should certainly be nominated for an Oscar come award season. You can’t have Anna without the daring dresses and hats, which weave in so perfectly with the colorful scenery.
The one issue I had with “Anna,” was the director’s artistic choice to have the story appear as if it were on stage. Director Joe Wright (“Pride & Prejudice” & “Atonement”) and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (“Atonement” & “The Avengers”) filmed the story beautifully with the “stagehands” and set peices moving graciously around the characters, but at times it was a bit distracting and took me out of the story.
Joe Wright’s take on “Anna Karenina” is stylish, erotic and beautiful, while Knightley gives one of the best performances of the year as the story’s heroine.