Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Highlight of the Holiday Season: Anna Karenina

Classics screen  adaptations inevitably sparkle the controversy. It’s virtually impossible to make everyone happy and to fulfill all expectations.
Having read the ravishing reviews in NY Times  and Globe and Mail I thought I was prepared. It turned out I almost was. The movie is even better. It’s the highlight of our holiday season.
A brilliant translation of remote realities, customs, moral laws into free spirit strive for happiness. If you haven’t yet seen, don’t be afraid of XIXth  century enormously heavy Russian classic novel by Tolstoy. It’s a brilliant contemporary adaptation undoubtedly calling for several Oscar nominations.  At least for the Best Director, camera man, for set design and costumes, for music and choreography. It will be hard to approach and turn any other foreign classics into decent movie any time soon  and not to be under the spell of this splendidly choreographed masterpiece, not to fall into a mocking parody.

The cast is fantastic and the understanding of characters is profound even in such a condensed form. You’ll be utterly impressed by Keira Knightley’s work but you certainly won’t forget Jude Law’s tragic Kerenin easily. The only question mark is Vronsky (Aaron Johnson). In movie’s theatrical and playful stylization it might have been intentional. I don’t believe in director’s mistake. As if Shakespeare’s prankster Puck accomplished his stint and dropped the magic juice in Anna’s eyes and she was cursed to fall in love with the first creature she would see when she wakes up. And it happened to be this pretty Barbie boy, curled and blue eyed, nonchalant,  sexy and shallow. As the movie’s poster claims: You can’t ask Why about love. The decadent and sensual waltz  among people-mannequins is breathtaking! THIS ANNA with such Vronsky – the tragic irony of fate.

I simply can’t tell it better than the authors of highly analytical reviews .
But  the quote from Diana Vreeland (though about Diaghilev)*  would perfectly sum up  the impression: “The flavor, the extravagance, the allure, the excitement, the passion, the smash, the clash, the crash…”

There were two most notable Annas on the screen: iconic Greta Garbo (who was glamorous, cold and static as a moon stone, wordless blurred close-ups worked magic) and beautiful Vivien Leigh passionate and alienated in that pedantically realistic rendition.

The new version is very innovative and courageous approach to classic which isn’t viewed as untouchable, sacred, frozen exotic treasure or a hopeless transplant in place and time which can’t survive without massive injection of action and explicit scenes. 

It’s pulsing, it has a heart beat, it’s breathing. Joe Wright’s adaptation is elegant, exuberant, dynamic and deeply touching and not superficial at all. 
A delicate ballet with passionate splashes and grotesque exaggerations (as in: you can’t be serious about obvious absurd of reality) embroidered with meaningful dialogs and quite serious revelations. The flawless rhythm of virtuoso orchestra led by a fragile and unstoppable soloist.  And it’s not only the most famous adultery story as one critic pointed out. There’s so much more indeed and it doesn’t sound so distant as one might think. Real and surreal are inseparably entwined. The colorful Theatre of Absurd but a very beautiful one.

*D.V.© 1984 Diana Vreeland, ECCO An Imprint of HarpersCollinsPublishers, 2011, p.13.


  1. Une charmante publication... heureuse d'avoir vos sentiments.

    Gros bisous et tous mes voeux pour 2013.

  2. Natalie, I was so disappointed not to see this when I was in the States! It came out just as I was leaving. And I REFUSE to see it in VF here in France!! So I will have to wait to see in on DVD, not the same thing at all. :( Joe Wright is one of my very favorite directors--I know it must be fantastic!

  3. Well Natalie, if you ever give up your day job you could always be a film critic! Fabulous review.

    1. Wow! Thank you. I wouldn't dare but I'd love to share my thoughts on things that touched me and impressed.


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