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 epic romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel 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 Ireland 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 Imperial Russia, Prince Stephan "Stiva" Oblonsky's wife, Princess Daria "Dolly", surprises him cheating with their governess and banishes him from home. Stiva's sister, Anna Karenina, a well off and liked socialite living St. Petersburg with her elder husband, Count Alexei Karenin, and their son, Seryozha, travels to Moscow to persuade Dolly to forgive her unfaithful Stiva. Meanwhile, Stiva meets his old friend Konstantin Levin, a wealthy land owner aristocrat, yet looked down on by Moscow's elite for preferring country life to city life. Levin professes his love for Stiva's sister-in-law, Princess Katerina "Kitty" Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky. Later, Levin meets with his elder brother Nikolai, who has given up his inheritance. Nikolai lives with a prostitute named Masha whom he took as his wife, and suggests to Levin to marry one of the peasants on his estate. On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya, and once there Anna meets Vronsky himself, and they have immediate mutual attraction. While the train is at Moscow station it lurches forward killing a railway worker. Vronsky is seen by Anna, Stiva, and the Countess giving a large sum of money to go to the workers family. Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he dances with Anna, no matter watched by everyone, including Kitty. Anna boards a train to St. Petersburg, but at a rest stop notices Vronsky, who declares that he must be wherever she goes. She tells him to leave back to Moscow, but he refuses.
In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya, a friend with the Karenins, and begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit. On a party, Vronsky flirts openly with Anna, which catches Karenin's attention. He suggests they leave home, but Anna won't join him. Vronsky tells his intention to take a promotion in another city but Anna persuades him to stay and the next day they meet at a hotel and make love.
Back at Levin's country estate, Stiva visits, where he tells Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer getting married. Levin focuses on living an authentic country life. He works in his fields with his workers and has thoughts of taking one of their daughters as his wife, as his brother had suggested.
Karenin hears that his wife and Vronsky are in the country estate and surprises them there, after she revealed Vronsky that she is pregnant. Later she encounters Karenin who suggests he join them for the horse races that evening. The races begin, and Anna shows her feelings for Vronsky as his horse falls and injures him. On their way home Anna admits to Karenin that she is Vronsky's mistress and wishes to divorce him. Karenin refuses and instead confines her to home. Levin sees Kitty in a passing carriage, then returns to Moscow just to plead her again to marry him. Anna receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg and as she complains why he failed to come earlier, he reasons this delay by his duties as an officer. Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky was visiting Anna, as seen from the love letters found in her desk. Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty are reunited at Stiva's house, and Karenin announces he is divorcing Anna, who begs him to forgive her, which he refuses. After dinner, Levin and Kitty announce their love and decide to marry. Anna goes into premature labour. With Vronsky is at her side, she berates him, complaining that he could never be the man Karenin is, while her husband begs for her forgiveness, which she grants him. The next day Vronsky leaves at the request of Karenin, who forms an attachment to Anna's baby girl, Anya. Princess Betsy calls on Anna to discuss what will happen with Vronsky now that he is back to Moscow. Anna suggests that Betsy better discuss it whit Karenin, who assures them that they'll be all happy again. Yet Anna wants only Vronsky, while Karenin refuses a divorce, but releases Anna from her confinement. She and Vronsky soon leave for a trip to Italy with little Anya.
Levin and Kitty return to his country estate, where sick Nikolai and Masha were given a storeroom to live there. Levin tells Kitty that she doesn't have to live under the same roof with the former prostitute, however the newly matured Kitty ignores social norms and joins Masha in nursing Nikolai.
Anna returns to St. Petersburg to see Seryozha, but Karenin makes her leave after a short time. Anna now begins to suspect that Vronsky too is cheating on her. She attends the opera where the upper class audience regards her with disdain as someone who "has broken the rules". Though humiliated, she retains her poise, just to break down once back at her hotel. The next day Anna has lunch at a restaurant where the society 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 to come to accept and love him for who he is. Later, Vronsky informs Anna that he has to meet his mother to settle some accounts, but there Anna sees Princess Sorokina picking him up. Anne becomes upset, and takes the train. to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother. On the way, she has hallucinations of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love, and laughing of her. Arriving to Moscow station, Anna says to herself, "God forgive me!" and jumps under an oncoming train, that kills her. Levin returns home from working in the fields to find Kitty bathing their child. Oblonsky and his family eat with Levin and Kitty. Karenin, retired by then from serving his country is seen in his 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
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 at Shepperton Studios in a dilapidated theatre 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 criticising the script and Wright's apparent preference for style over substance. The film received an positive review score of 63% according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic reported an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 reviews and classified the film as "generally favorable".
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 moustaches) 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 criticised 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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