I recently took myself over to the Chelsea Cinema to see Anna Karenina, the movie based on Tolstoy's tragic novel from 1877, and which stars Keira Knightley and is directed by Joe Wright. I have been a big fan of these two since they made Pride & Prejudice together which is one of my very favorite movies.
The movie opened at Thanksgiving so I thought by now the theater would be fairly empty so I arrived a little late to find in the dark a completely packed house. I spotted one seat in the last row and asked two old ladies sitting on the aisle if I could kindly pass. One lady tried to stand up once, twice, and on the third attempt she got half-way up and said to me, "You better go by while the going is good!" I squeezed past and settled into a cozy, comfy seat perfectly situated in the middle of the row where the splendors of Russia unfolded before me.
This novel has been made into movies before, most famously starring Greta Garbo, but for this version Joe Wright decided to film the production mostly within an old theater instead of on location in Russia. It's a risky approach but I thought the movie was very beautiful and I recommend it, especially if you are looking for a luxurious eyeful during these dark dreary days of January. The screenplay was written by the English playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. The production design including the clothes and the sets is wonderful, and it inspires you to take home some of the elegance with you. I won't summarize the 900-page novel here, but you do know that for Anna, who is trying to escape the confines of a deadly dull marriage, it does not end well.
Wrapped in silks and jewels and furs, Keira Knightley is jaw-droppingly gorgeous in the title role, and thankfully the camera does linger on her lovely face. (Photos are movie stills from Focus Features and from Vogue magazine; click on photos to enlarge.)
The English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Count Alexi Vronksy, the rich calvary officer who the unhappily married Anna falls for.
Jude Law plays Anna's long suffering diplomat husband.
In Vogue he wears a dramatic coat by Prada.
Konstantin Levin, who shares a parallel plot with Anna's story, is played by the striking Irish actor Domnhnall Gleason.
To add to the modern note, jewelry in the movie is from Chanel; Keira Knightley is the spokesperson for Chanel fragrance.
I really enjoyed the movie which, I understand, is quite faithful to the novel (I haven't read it!). Afterwards I had visions of tsarist Russia dancing in my head. I'd like to return to it again.
Blog bonus: movie trailer