Production gets in the way of acting in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

I’ve read Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina twice, first when I was 12—precocious, no? And again a few years ago. I’m not sure it is my favorite story —tragic ending and so forth. But that did not deter me from looking forward to watching a DVD of Director Joe Wright and playwright Tom Stoppard‘s adaption of Anna Karenina on Saturday with my mum.

First, a shout out to the actors, in particular Jude Law as the wronged, self-righteous prig of a husband Alexei Karenin, Mathew Macfayden (who I would like in anything, it’s true) as Anna’s adulterous but loyal brother Stiva Oblonsky and Domhnall Gleeson as Constantin Levin, the moral heart and soul of the piece. Keira Knightley also did a fine job, though something she does with her neck make her head bob forward and back in an unsightly fashion. That said, it is hard for Ms. Knightley to be unsightly–she is quite beautiful as Anna.

More good news—The costumes designed by Jacqueline Duran are to-die-for gorgeous, luscious ball gowns, dramatic hats (with veils, so cool). No wonder she is nominated for an Oscar. I definitely fancy myself in a Russian fur coat and hat (fake of course) after seeing multiple versions on Keira Knightley. Dario Marinell’s Oscar-nominated musical score is beautiful and haunting. (Note: I’m the parent of a figure skater and I expect to hear this music in 2013 freestyle programs).

But the actual production—the set design—resembles a play in a theatre and, for me, it took away from the story and the acting. It was odd, and distracting and I wished for a smoother, more traditional approach to filming. But Sarah Greenwood’s production design and Katie Spencer’s set decoration are both nominated for Oscar’s along with Seamus McGarvey for Cinematography — so what do I know?

Finally, I concluded I’m not a fan of the actual story line: lovely, moral housewife content in her hum-drum life gets drawn into adulterous affair with ne’er do well bad boy and loses everything, family, children, reputation and finally the bad boy himself. In despair, she throws herself under a train. No hope, no redemption, certainly no happy ending for Anna. The only characters with heroic qualities are Levin and Kitty Oblonsky, who find true love despite initial setbacks.

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4 comments on “Production gets in the way of acting in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

  1. […] Production gets in the way of acting in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina ( […]

  2. I first read it at an early age too (influence of big sis 10 years older) and didn’t like it then. I read it again years later and thought it was a big bummer. Anna’s a twit, in my opinion. No spine.
    I’ll probably catch the movie on video, though it sounds like it won’t change my opinion any.

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