Anna Karenina (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Wright|
|Screenplay by||Tom Stoppard|
|Based on||Anna Karenina|
by Leo Tolstoy
|Music by||Dario Marianelli|
|Edited by||Melanie Ann Oliver|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
Anna Karenina is a 2012 British historical romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel of the same name and a remake of the 1985 film of the same name, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina, wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with the affluent officer Count Vronsky which leads to her ultimate demise. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role as Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright following both Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Karenin and Vronsky, respectively. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander appear in key supporting roles.
Produced by Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal, the film premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. It was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and on 9 November 2012 in the United States. Anna Karenina earned a worldwide gross of approximately $69 million, mostly from its international run. It earned a rating of 64 percent from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, labelling it generally favourable. Critics praised the cast, but commented on and criticised the heavily stylised adaptation, and were less enthusiastic with Wright's preference for style over substance and his idea of setting most of the action on a theatre stage.
It earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards, winning Jacqueline Durran both prizes for Best Costume Design. In addition, Anna Karenina garnered six nominations at the 17th Satellite Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Knightley and Best Adapted Screenplay for Stoppard.
In 1874 Russian Empire, Prince Stephan "Stiva" Oblonsky's wife, Princess Darya "Dolly," banishes her husband from their home due to his infidelity. Stiva's sister, Anna Karenina, a well-off and well-liked socialite living in St. Petersburg with her older husband, Count Alexei Karenin, and their son, Sergei "Seryozha" Alexeyich Karenin, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive Stiva.
Stiva meets his old friend Konstantin Levin, a wealthy land owner and aristocrat who is looked down upon by Moscow's elite for preferring country life to city life. Levin professes his love for Stiva's sister-in-law, Princess Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky, a wealthy cavalry officer. Levin meets with his elder brother, Nikolai, who has given up his inheritance and taken a prostitute named Masha as his wife. Nikolai suggests that Levin marry one of the peasants on his estate. On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya, facing scandal for her own infidelity. Once there, Anna meets Vronsky himself and they have mutual attraction. After a railway worker is killed in an accident at the station, Anna asks if anything can be done for his family. Vronsky is seen giving a large sum of money to other railroad workers for the deceased's family. Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he dances with Anna, leaving Kitty heartbroken. Vronsky later tells Anna that he must be wherever she goes.
In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin, Princess Elizaveta "Betsy" Tverskaya, a friend of the Karenins, and begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit, making him the target of Moscow gossip. He flirts openly with Anna at a party and tells her of his intention to take a promotion in Tashkent, but she persuades him to stay. The next day they meet at a hotel and make love.
Stiva informs Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer to be married. Levin focuses on living an authentic country life, contemplating taking one of his workers' daughters as his wife.
Anna and Seryozha go to the Karenin country estate. Anna visits Vronsky and reveals that she is pregnant. He wants her to leave Karenin and live with him. Anna suggests Karenin come to the horse races that evening. As the races begin, Anna betrays her feelings for Vronsky when his horse falls and breaks its back. On their way home, Anna admits to Karenin that she is Vronsky's mistress and Karenin says she must stop seeing Vronsky. Levin realises that he still loves Kitty. Months later, Anna receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg. He tells her that his duties as an officer delayed his visit. Karenin find outs that Vronsky visited and breaks into Anna's desk to get Vronsky's love letters, intending to use them to get a divorce. Levin and Kitty are reunited at Stiva's house. Karenin comes to Stiva and Dolly's house to inform them he is divorcing Anna. They beg him to forgive her, but he refuses. After dinner, Levin and Kitty announce their love for each other and decide to marry. Anna goes into premature labour and sends for Vronsky. She berates him, saying that he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin comes back, believing Anna is going to die and forgives her. Anna survives and initially decides to stay with her husband. Princess Betsy calls on Anna and tells her Vronsky wants to see her. Anna tells Betsy Karenin believes that they will be reunited as a family. Karenin tells Anna that even if he divorced her on adultery, as the guilty party, she wouldn't be allowed to remarry in the Orthodox Church. However, he releases Anna from her confinement. She and Vronsky leave for Italy with their daughter, Anya.
Levin and Kitty return to his country estate, where the sickly Nikolai and Masha have been given a storeroom to live in. Levin tells Kitty that he will send Masha away so Kitty doesn't have to live on the same estate as the former prostitute, but the newly matured Kitty ignores social norms and assists Masha in nursing Nikolai. Levin's love for Kitty grows.
Anna returns to St. Petersburg to see Seryozha on his birthday, but Karenin makes her leave. Anna begins to suspect Vronsky of infidelity. She attends the opera with Princess Myagkaya, a society woman who speaks her mind, but the rest of the upper class regard her with disdain as someone who "has broken the rules." Though humiliated, Anna retains her poise, only to break down at her hotel. She begins using morphine to sleep. The next day, she has lunch at a restaurant where the women avoid her. Dolly, however, joins her and tells her that Kitty is in Moscow to have her first child. Dolly says that Stiva's behavior has not changed, but she has come to accept and love him.
Vronsky informs Anna that he has to meet his mother to settle some accounts. Anna becomes upset when Princess Sorokina gives Vronsky a ride, as she believes Countess Vronskaya wants Vronsky to marry Sorokina. Anna decides to leave St. Petersburg and return to Vronsky's country estate. On the train, she has hallucinations of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love and laughing at her. Arriving at Moscow station, Anna says to herself, "Oh God... " and jumps under an oncoming train that kills her. The scene then flashes to Vronsky who has a shocked face as if knowing his true love has died. Levin returns home from work to find Kitty bathing their child, Dmitri. Stiva and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, now retired, is living at his country estate, with Seryozha and young Anya playing nearby.
- Keira Knightley as Princess Anna Arkadievna Karenina
- Jude Law as Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a senior statesman and Anna's husband
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, lover of Anna, a cavalry officer
- Matthew Macfadyen as Prince Stepan "Stiva" Arkadyevich Oblonsky, Anna's brother, a civil servant
- Kelly Macdonald as Princess Darya "Dolly" Alexandrovna Oblonskaya, Stiva's wife
- Alicia Vikander as Princess Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya, Dolly's younger sister
- Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin "Kostya" Dmitrievich Levin, a landowner and friend of Stiva
- Olivia Williams as Countess Vronskaya, Vronsky's mother
- Ruth Wilson as Princess Elizaveta "Betsy" Tverskaya, Vronsky's cousin
- Emily Watson as Countess Lidia Ivanovna, leader of a high society circle that includes Karenin
- Michelle Dockery as Princess Myagkaya, a friend of Anna
- Raphaël Personnaz as Count Alexander Kirillovich Vronsky, Alexei's brother
- Cara Delevingne as Princess Sorokina
- Emerald Fennell as Princess Merkalova
- Holliday Grainger as Baroness
- Hera Hilmar as Varya, Alexander's wife and Alexei's sister-in-law
- David Wilmot as Nikolai, Kostya's brother
- Tannishtha Chatterjee as Masha, Nikolai's wife/former Prostitute
- Bill Skarsgård as Makhotin
- Guro Nagelhus Schia as Annushka
Joe Wright was hired to direct an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, his fourth collaboration with Working Title Films. Wright shot most of his film on a single soundstage, representing a dilapidated theatre, at Shepperton Studios outside London. Italian composer Dario Marianelli composed the film score, while Jacqueline Durran served as the costume designer. Sarah Greenwood was in charge of production design. Wright has worked with all three in past productions, including on the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice. Further crew members include cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, editor Melanie Ann Oliver, and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
The cast include Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her young love, and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, Michelle Dockery, and Tannishtha Chatterjee. Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively. Ronan, stated that her reasoning behind turning down the role of Kitty was the film's long production schedule. It would have required her to turn down movie roles from autumn 2011 to late spring 2012, to film what would have ended up as a supporting role. By turning down the role, she was able to take the lead roles in Byzantium and The Host. The Borgias star Holliday Grainger had a minor role as Baroness Shilton.
In July 2011, Keira Knightley began rehearsals, in preparation for principal filming which began later in 2011. Filming began in October 2011. The film was distributed by Focus Features in North America and by Universal Pictures International for international markets. The film was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and 9 November 2012 in the United States.
Upon its release, the film received mildly positive reviews from critics, with some praising the cast – particularly Knightley – and the production design, but criticizing the script and Wright's apparent preference for style over substance. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62%, with an average rating of 6.53. The website's critical consensus reads, "Joe Wright's energetic adaptation of Tolstoy's classic romance is a bold, visually stylized work -- for both better and worse." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." 
Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist awarded the film a B+ and called the picture a "bold reimagining" of the classic novel, comparing Wright's vision to the films of Powell and Pressburger. He noted how Knightley "continues to go from strength to strength" and also praised Law as "excellent". Even though he speculated that "the film is going to divide people enormously", he concluded it was one to "cherish despite its flaws". Ian Freer of Empire awarded the film four stars out of five and was effervescent in his praise for Wright and the final result: he said "Anna Karenina militantly doesn't want to be just another costume drama; it attacks the heavyweight concerns of Russian literature (hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, the pastoral vs. the urban, huge mustaches) with wit and verve; most exciting of all, it is filmmaking of the highest order, channeling every other art form from painting to ballet to puppetry while remaining completely cinematic". He lauded the entire cast for their work yet concluded that "this is really its director's movie".
In The Observer, Jason Solomons also called Knightley "superb", and declared that the film "works beautifully...[it is] elegant and exciting [and] ...incredibly cinematic". Leslie Felperin of Variety was more reserved in her praise for the film, observing that although Wright "knows how to get the best from Knightley" and noting that the film was technically "glorious", it was also "unmistakably chilly" in the storytelling. The Daily Mirror singled out Knightley as "excellent" and lauded Wright for "offer[ing] a fresh vision of the Tolstoy classic", concluding the picture to be "with its beautiful cinematography and costumes... a real success".
Others were less impressed with the film and Wright's take on such a classic text. The Hertfordshire Mercury conceded that "costumes and art direction are ravishing, and Seamus McGarvey's cinematography shimmers with rich colour", but ultimately found there to be "no obvious method behind this production design madness". Stella Papamichael of Digital Spy also awarded the picture only two stars out of five, commenting that "the third time isn't such a charm for director Joe Wright and muse Keira Knightley". Although she found the actress "luminous in the role" she criticised Wright for "outshining" his star and affecting the narrative momentum by "favouring a glossy look over probing insights into a complicated character". Neil Smith of Total Film also awarded the film two out of five stars, lamenting the fact that Wright's elaborate stage design "pull[s] the attention away from where it should be... [and] keeps [us] at arm's length, forever highlighting the smoke, mirrors and meticulous stage management that have been pressed into service to make his big idea a reality". He also dismissed Knightley's performance as "less involving" than her "similar" turn in The Duchess. Richard Brody of The New Yorker criticized Wright for diverging from Tolstoy, without adding anything beyond superficialities in return: "Wright, with flat and flavorless images of an utterly impersonal banality, takes Tolstoy's plot and translates it into a cinematic language that's the equivalent of, say, Danielle Steel, simultaneously simplistic and overdone."
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