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  • Colin Fraser


FOUR STARS A handsome retelling of Tolstoy's enduring tale of romance and privilege as an Empire fades.


Starring Kiera Knightly, Jude Law

“I was eighteen when I got married, but I was not in love.” Anna Karenina (Keira Knightly) dances elegantly through Russian aristocracy with the unwavering support of her staunch and stoic husband (Jude Law), until that fateful day she meets the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson - Nowhere Boy’s John Lennon). In the fading days of Empire, neither God nor man takes kindly to the ways of the individual, and Anna will pay a hefty price for challenging both.

One of Russian literature’s greatest works, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has met a match in director Joe Wright (Atonement) who breathes such vigour into the text that it transcends the conventions of period drama. The luscious production itself is a thing of beauty, lavish costumes and even more lavish sets are judiciously matched to character – Karenin’s blue is stern and formal, Vronsky in white is light and princely while Karenina is the epitome of the scarlet tragic.

For many directors, visual elegance might well be enough support for Tom Stoppard’s crisp screenplay, but he and Wright go a step further by pinning the action to a stage production. It’s a risky gambit which, in less capable hands, would shriek of the proscenium arch. Here it is simply magnificent as a restless camera ducks and dives through rehearsal rooms, into the wings, the audience then up into the flyloft and unexpectedly through the back of the stage into the world at large. It is quite brilliant and in skewing your view of the production, it brings greater depth to this film of a play of a novel.

Yet beyond device is the compelling tragedy of a story beautifully realised by Wright and his excellent cast. ANNA KARENINA captures the mood of its time as much as it captures the mood of ours, creating a perfect combination of human aspiration and doomed romance. “It would be a sin to help you destroy yourself,” says Karenin in a tender moment of lost hope. But Anna needs no help, self-destruction is her talent.



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