ⓘ Anna Karenina (2012 film)

                                     

ⓘ Anna Karenina (2012 film)

Anna Karenina is a 2012 historical romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoys 1877 novel of the same name and a remake of the 1985 film of the same name, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina, wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with the affluent officer Count Vronsky which leads to her ultimate demise. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role as Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright following both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Karenin and Vronsky, respectively. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander appear in key supporting roles.

Produced by Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal, the film premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. It was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and on 9 November 2012 in the United States. Anna Karenina earned a worldwide gross of approximately $69 million, mostly from its international run. It earned a rating of 64 percent from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, labelling it generally favourable. Critics praised the cast, but commented on and criticised the heavily stylised adaptation, and were less enthusiastic with Wrights preference for style over substance and his idea of setting most of the action on a theatre stage.

It earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards, winning Jacqueline Durran both prizes for Best Costume Design. In addition, Anna Karenina garnered six nominations at the 17th Satellite Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Knightley and Best Adapted Screenplay for Stoppard.

                                     

1. Plot

In 1874, Russian Empire, Princess Darya "Dolly," banishes her unfaithful husband, Prince Stephan "Stiva" Oblonsky. Stivas sister, Anna Karenina, a socialite in St. Petersburg with her older husband, Count Alexei Karenin, and son, Sergei "Seryozha" Alexeyich Karenin, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive.

Stiva meets old friend Konstantin Levin, a landowning aristocrat despised by Moscows elite for preferring country to city life. Levin says he loves Stivas sister-in-law, Princess Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky, a wealthy officer. Levin meets his elder brother, Nikolai, who has reonunced his inheritance and married Masha, a prostitute. Nikolai suggests Levin marry a peasant. On the train, Anna meets Vronskys mother, Countess Vronskaya, isolated by her own infidelity. Arriving, Anna meets Vronsky and they are attracted. After a worker dies in an accident, Anna asks for help for his family. Vronsky gives money for this. Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he prefers Anna, upsetting Kitty. Vronsky tells Anna he must be wherever she goes.

In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin, Princess Elizaveta "Betsy" Tverskaya, a friend of the Karenins, and appears wherever Anna and Betsy visit, causing gossip. He flirts with Anna. Saying he has a promotion in Tashkent, she persuades him to stay. They later meet and make love.

Stiva informs Levin that Kitty and Vronsky will not be married. Levin focuses on country life and contemplates marrying a workers daughter.

Anna and Seryozha go to the Karenin estate. Anna visits Vronsky and reveals her pregnancy. He wants her to leave Karenin. Anna suggests Karenin come to the horse races but betrays her feelings when Vronskys horse falls. Afterwards, Anna admits she is Vronskys mistress and Karenin says she must renounce him. Levin realises he still loves Kitty. Months later, Anna receives Vronsky. He tells her military duties delayed his visit. Karenin discovers Vronsky visited and steals his letters for a divorce. Levin and Kitty are reunited. Karenin visits Stiva and Dolly to say he is divorcing Anna. They beg him to forgive her: he refuses. Levin and Kitty announce their love and marry. Anna goes into premature labour and sends for Vronsky. She says he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin returns, believing Anna is dying and forgives her. Anna survives and decides to stay. Princess Betsy tells Anna Vronsky wants to see her. Anna says Karenin believes they will be reunited. Karenin tells Anna she cannot marry Vronsky even if divorced, due to her adultery. However, he releases Anna. She and Vronsky leave for Italy with their daughter, Anya.

Levin and Kitty return to his estate, where sickly Nikolai and Masha live in a storeroom. Levin tells Kitty he will send Masha away so Kitty does not have to meet her, but the newly mature Kitty ignores social norms and helps Masha nurse Nikolai. Levins love for Kitty grows.

Anna returns to St. Petersburg for Seryozhas birthday, but Karenin dismisses her. Anna suspects Vronsky of infidelity. She attends the opera with Princess Myagkaya, an outspoken socialite, but society disdains her. Humiliated, Anna retains her poise, only to break down at her hotel. She uses morphine to sleep. Women avoid her in a restaurant. Dolly tells her Kitty is in Moscow to give birth. Dolly says Stivas behavior is unchanged, but she has come to accept and love him.

Vronsky informs Anna he must meet his mother for business. Anna becomes upset when Princess Sorokina gives Vronsky a ride, as she believes Countess Vronskaya wants Vronsky to marry her. Anna returns to Vronskys estate. On the train, she imagines Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love and laughing at her. Arriving at Moscow, Anna says to herself, "Oh God. and jumps under a train. The scene flashes to a shocked Vronsky. Levin returns home from work to find Kitty bathing their child. Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, retired, is living at his estate, with Seryozha and Anya playing.

                                     

2. Production

Joe Wright was hired to direct an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, his fourth collaboration with Working Title Films. Wright shot most of his film on a single soundstage, representing a dilapidated theatre, at Shepperton Studios outside London. Italian composer Dario Marianelli composed the film score, while Jacqueline Durran served as the costume designer. Sarah Greenwood was in charge of production design. Wright has worked with all three in past productions, including on the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice. Further crew members include cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, editor Melanie Ann Oliver, and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

The cast include Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her young love, and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, Michelle Dockery, and Tannishtha Chatterjee. Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively. Ronan, stated that her reasoning behind turning down the role of Kitty was the films long production schedule. It would have required her to turn down movie roles from autumn 2011 to late spring 2012, to film what would have ended up as a supporting role. By turning down the role, she was able to take the lead roles in Byzantium and The Host. The Borgias star Holliday Grainger had a minor role as Baroness Shilton.

In July 2011, Keira Knightley began rehearsals, in preparation for principal filming which began later in 2011. Filming began in October 2011. The film was distributed by Focus Features in North America and by Universal Pictures International for international markets. The film was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and 9 November 2012 in the United States.

                                     

3. Critical reception

Upon its release, the film received mildly positive reviews from critics, with some praising the cast – particularly Knightley – and the production design, but criticizing the script and Wrights apparent preference for style over substance. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62%, with an average rating of 6.53. The websites critical consensus reads, "Joe Wrights energetic adaptation of Tolstoys classic romance is a bold, visually stylized work -- for both better and worse." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."

Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist awarded the film a B+ and called the picture a "bold reimagining" of the classic novel, comparing Wrights vision to the films of Powell and Pressburger. He noted how Knightley "continues to go from strength to strength" and also praised Law as "excellent". Even though he speculated that "the film is going to divide people enormously", he concluded it was one to "cherish despite its flaws". Ian Freer of Empire awarded the film four stars out of five and was effervescent in his praise for Wright and the final result: he said Anna Karenina militantly doesnt want to be just another costume drama; it attacks the heavyweight concerns of Russian literature with wit and verve; most exciting of all, it is filmmaking of the highest order, channeling every other art form from painting to ballet to puppetry while remaining completely cinematic". He lauded the entire cast for their work yet concluded that "this is really its directors movie".

In The Observer, Jason Solomons also called Knightley "superb", and declared that the film "works beautifully. at arms length, forever highlighting the smoke, mirrors and meticulous stage management that have been pressed into service to make his big idea a reality". He also dismissed Knightleys performance as "less involving" than her "similar" turn in The Duchess. Richard Brody of The New Yorker criticized Wright for diverging from Tolstoy, without adding anything beyond superficialities in return: "Wright, with flat and flavorless images of an utterly impersonal banality, takes Tolstoys plot and translates it into a cinematic language thats the equivalent of, say, Danielle Steel, simultaneously simplistic and overdone."