The stage is set for a grand performance, you start getting that bubbly feeling inside your stomach. Something amazing is going to happen and you prepare yourself to be wowed. Your heart starts beating faster and faster as the lights dim for the performance to begin. You don’t want to look away or blink, not to risk missing the beginning act. The music starts flowing and everyone quiets down.
This was my exact feeling when I started watching Anna Karenina. As it is one of my favorite books, I had great expectations from this film. All those months of watching the spoilers were a build up to the moment when Keira Knightley takes the screens as the exquisite Anna Karenina opposite Jude Law’s version of Alexei Karenin. The expectations were high, and I believe that is why I found myself slightly mystified by Joe Wright’s choice of direction. He had all the right tools – exceptional actors, limitless capital, glamorous costumes – everything was at his disposal and yet he filmed Tolstoy’s masterpiece as if it were a budget film.
But, the film is redeems itself through a diverse range of factors. The fact is that it is a high budget film, and this is evident throughout the entire movie. The sets and whole outlook of the Russia is displayed in a grand spectacular – there is no lack of luster in the fine gowns or houses of the elite depicted in the film. The costumes are unparalleled in period-films as there were no cost-cutting in presentation. In addition to this, the actors truly give it their all. Knightley plays a beautiful Anna Karenina and I don’t think any other actress could have channeled this character better. Matching her, Jude Law gives a performance that was least expected from him, I truly was not aware of his talent!
All of the elaborate cinematography is commendable, however the one thing that holds back the entire film is the presentation of it – the deficiency of reality is prominent in various scenes, highly notable in 2 of the most emotional parts of the book (i) the horse race where Alexei suffers from a fall and (ii) when Anna visits her abandoned son on his birthday. Both of these scenes are pivotal in betraying Anna’s emotions and the tear in her personality, but it is lost as the direction fails miserably. Unfortunately the protagonist’s feelings are completely lost in the childish depiction of these scenes, creating a barrier between the audience and the story.
What makes it sad is that this film had the potential to be an all-rounder. It could have hit all the right notes and been a magnificent depiction of Tolstoy’s gem, on the contrary, it is an amateur attempt and hopefully someone someday will get the right formula to show Anna’s pain and agony, as well as her selfishness and helplessness. This novel is one of the golden jewels of Russian literature, and it deserves to receive a film that captures it’s beauty.
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Organised Clutter: 3/5