Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movie Outing: Anna Karenina

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.)


A recent issue of Vogue magazine featured the stars of the movie – here is Keira in Vogue:

The English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Count Alexi Vronksy, the rich calvary officer who the unhappily married Anna falls for.
Here is Taylor-Johnson photographed in Vogue, not blonde.

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.

The clothes in the movie were designed by Jacqueline Durran, who worked with Joe Wright on Pride & Prejudice, for which she received an Academy Award, and on Atonement; do you remember Keira Knightley's sinuously elegant emerald green evening gown in that movie? Durran was this week nominated for an Oscar for Anna Karenina, and I hope she wins. Eric Wilson at The New York Times wrote a very interesting piece about how Durran combined 1870's shapes with 1950's couture by Balenciaga to create gowns which looked historical but also modern for Anna Karenina.

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


donna baker said...

Thank you so much for the thumbs up. Keira is my favorite actress.

Dean Farris said...

Hi Bart!

Can't wait to see it, am sure the sets are as stunning as the actors!


Bart Boehlert said...

Donna and Dean, I think you will enjoy it!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

This has been my favorite book since I read it in high school -while it matches up it falls flat.
That said I thought this movie was AMAZING. I saw it on Thanksgiving day and loved it more than I thought I could. Just over the top beautiful and I can't wait to own my own DVD copy.

Samantha said...

Beautiful!! I hope it wins some awards for costume and set design at the AA!

The enchanted home said...

Happy to find your blog. Enjoyed your interview with Carolyn Roehm of whom I am a big fan. I LOVED this film, one of the best I have sen in a long long time, am a big fan of any period pieces...we need more!