Monday, January 21, 2013

Two Words: Reflections on the new Anna Karenina movie

As I said in my post of September 7, I had great hope for the new movie version of Anna Karenina.  Though I don’t ever expect a movie to replicate the experience of reading the book, that doesn’t mean good adaptations can’t be made. 

Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley gets off to a great start.  The pacing is quick, like the novel’s.  There are touches of humor, as in the bureaucrats stamping their papers in unison and Levin’s awkward lack of urban finish.  The foreshadowing is nice but not overdone; Anna’s son is shown playing with a model train, for example.  And everyone is whistling, humming, carrying the jaunty and very Russian tune of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony.  A lot of these masterful touches are facilitated by the smart and interesting choice to film the story as if it’s taking place in a theater.  This also underscores how “on stage” Russian society made people to be, a fact which becomes part of Anna’s undoing.  So here again, the movie is true to the book without representing absolutely everything exactly as Tolstoy has it.  The cast, too, is really wonderful, and they nail their characters throughout.

But, after this fantastic beginning,