REVIEW: Keira Knightley is thrown in a world filled with love, lust, and scandal in Anna Karenina

Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson): Are you glad to see me alone?

Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley): This must stop. You make me feel as if I was guilty of something.

Vronsky: What do you want me to do?

Anna: I want you to go to Moscow and beg Kitty to forgive you.

Vronsky: No that’s not what you want. Moscow? You can do better than that. Tonight I refused a posting to Tashkent. I can change my mind and you’ll never see me again.

Anna: If you have any thought for me you will give me back my peace.

Vronsky: I have no peace to give. There is no peace for us, in misery our greatest happiness.

Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, is currently being exclusively shown in Resort’s World Manila, Megaworld Lifestyle malls such as Eastwood City and Lucky Chinatown Mall.

There have been many adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s novel put to screen, radio, TV, stage and even opera. Vivien Leigh was cast in the 1948 version. Jacqueline Bisset and the late Christopher Reeve were in a TV movie version in 1985. Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean were in the 1997 version. Yes, Sean Bean, who is known as Boromir in Lord of the Rings and the reluctant king Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Kelly Macdonald who plays Anna Karenina’s sister in law is also in another HBO hit Boardwalk Empire. In that role, she’s the one who has an adulterous affair while being married to mobster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi).

The story of love, lust, scandal and societal judgment in Anna Karenina has fascinated audiences for decades. This version by director Joe Wright may be the most visually stunning among all of them. Recreating the grandeur of 19th century Russia was perhaps one of the big challenges in making the film. It has been nominated for 4 Oscars: Original Score, Cinematography, Production Design and Costume. The British Academy Film awards (BAFTA) has already given Anna Karenina the Best Costume award (Jacqueline Durran) while nominating it in similar categories and Most Outstanding British film as well.

The other categories that should’ve been added by award giving bodies were Best Direction and Best Editing. Wright was able to eloquently visualize the sensation of being in love especially in the extravagant ball scene.

Anna (Keira Knightley) couldn’t take her eyes off Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) but also did not want to be seen looking as she is already married to Karenin (Jude Law). She avoids his gaze by turning away for a few seconds and when she looks back he’s gone. Suddenly she hears his voice behind her asking her to dance. The waltz is hardly romantic with its formal movements, but the minimal physical contact and the person she was dancing with made it so thrilling. The hundreds of other pairs literally froze while Anna and the Count waltzed to the middle of the ballroom. Lights around them darkened and they were the only two people in the universe.

Wright masterfully used a theater stage as a metaphor for his character’s lives. All the world is a stage, in this sense shows that society will eventually know of or judge people in a particular scene.

Apart from Cinematography, Editing also enhanced the sets and detail that showed the decadence of Russian aristocracy. The camera would dolly into a scene with an elaborate golden wall divider in the background and cut where the background ends. A servant would close a black door also with golden relief ending a particular scene. Everything is so smooth and well thought out; sometimes you hardly notice the change in location or "transition" until you’re already there.

Anna Karenina reveals much more than just the joy, pain and tragedies of love. While showing the decadence of the aristocracy, it also deals with the disparity between classes and the prejudices that existed. There’s a personal evolution in the characters as the story goes along that audiences can relate to.

The film illustrates how stratified and segregated Russian society was in the 19th century. It was a violation of decorum to have gypsies or any other race to stay in the same roof as an aristocrat. Kostya Levin’s (Domhnall Gleeson) brother Nikolai (David Wilmot) had kept an Indian woman, Masha (Tannishtha Chatterjee) as a companion who was taking care of him through his grave illness.

The young blonde princess-like Kitty (Alicia Vikander) went into Nikolai’s room to give him a sponge bath and saw the Indian companion. Kostya apologized to Kitty for having her there and insisted that she leave. Instead, Kitty gave a towel to the woman and asked her to wash Nikolai together.

Kitty had always been in the bosom of wealth and decadence, that frame of mind. Because of her own loss and pain, it made her grow as a person and learn what was truly important in life. Kostya is himself a landowner who worked with farmers. He had found peace in a simpler life that made him ask, “Is it living simply that I’m looking for?”






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