Joe Wright‘s rendition of Leo Tolstoy‘s famous Anna Karenina is, in a word, spellbinding. It brings together all the best elements of direction, choreography, sound design and costuming to bring us a beautiful film stuffed with romance, with just the right amount of Tolstoy’s social and political commentary to keep it from being too whimsical.
Tom Stoppard‘s screenplay isn’t heavy on dialogue. Like Tolstoy, who pioneered the now commonplace interior monologue (where we read the thoughts and feelings directly, rather than them being paraphrased by the author), Stoppard relies heavily on the sets, costuming and direction to move the story along and share the characters’ thoughts and feelings with the audience.
This is often where film adaptations of books fall apart; while telling a story beautifully, often I hear fans of the books dissatisfied with the ‘feel’ of the movie – it lacks an important aspect of the novel that can’t be demonstrated by great dialogue or beautiful costumes. Not so with Anna Karenina.
Wright’s direction and extensive sets, Stoppard’s screenplay and Jaqueline Durran‘s beautiful costumes give an air to the film that does justice to the romance and tension of Tolstoy’s novel.
Durran’s costumes are a definite highlight of the film. She was nominated for an Oscar for them. When Joe Wright asked her to focus on the shape of the costumes rather than the trimmings, Durran introduced a silhouette that was 1950s couture in its origins. “The 1950s is a period everyone understands as a high point of couture.
If you want to play into people’s idea of luxury, referencing the 1950s is useful. It was a good match, because the cinched waist, fitted bodices and big skirts were similar to the shapes of the 1870s,” she told the Telegraph last week. Match it with jewellery by Chanel and we reckon Durran might finally get her Oscar.
An element of Anna Karenina that really intrigued me was the use of the stage as a set. It lent a feeling of production to the events of the film, and lended drama to already dramatic events such as the horse race and the opera scene.
The stage and auditorium, used as sets in most of the society scenes, made the audience feel part of the action, or at least complicit in Anna’s humiliation. This is rather a different feeling for this movie-goer, and it definitely drew me into the action.
The last thing I must mention is the direction. Many of the society scenes were choreographed more like dances, which heightened the feeling of production (which I mentioned earlier) and gave the whole thing a great amount of flair. I was sorry to see the choreography fall off in the second half of the film.
Anna Karenina is a perfect film for curling up on the couch with. It has the right amount of romance to keep its dark themes from being too serious, and the costuming and direction make this film a fashionista’s dream come true.
Check out some of Jaqueline Durran’s fabulous costume – from illustration to reality:
More photos from the 2012 film adaptation here:
- Director: Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Hanna)
- Screenwriter: Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love), based on the novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Costumes: Jacqueline Durran (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Hanna)
- Anna Karenina: Keira Knightley (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess)
- Count Alexei Karenin: Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley, Sherlock Holmes)
- Count Vronsky: Aaron Taylor- Johnson (The Illusionist, Albert Nobbs)
- Princess Dolly Oblonskaya: Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire, The Girl in the Cafe, Godford Park)
- Kostya Levin: Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & Part 2)
- Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya: Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair)
- Prince Oblonsky: Matthew Macfayden (Pride and Prejudice, Spooks)
- Princess Betsy: Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre)
- Princess Myagkaya: Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey, The Turn of the Screw)
- Countess Vronskaya: Olivia Williams (An Education, Hyde Park on Hudson)
- Countess Lydia: Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie, Gosford Park)
- The Baroness: Holliday Grainger (The Borgias, Great Expectations)
- Meme Kartasov: Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter, Bridget Jones Diary)
- Captain Machouten: Bill Skarsgård (Simple Simon)
- Princess Sorokina: Cara Delevingne (Burberry model)
- Countess Nordston: Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady)
- Varya Vronskaya: Hera Hilmar (The Cliff)
You might also like:
- Anna Karenina 2012
- Keira Knightley in Chanel at the premiere of “Anna Karenina”
- Historical style: fashion, film, architecture
- Kiera Knightley by Mario Testino for Vogue October 2012
Watch Anna Karenina:
- Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation starring Keira Knightley on DVD/Blu Ray
- Vivien Leigh as Anna, with Ralph Richardson, in the 1948 version
- Clarence Brown’s 1935 adaptation starring Greta Garbo and Fredric March
- PBS’s Masterpiece 2000 miniseries starring Helen McCrory
- Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean in the 1997 version of Anna Karenina
Read Anna Karenina:
- Anna Karenina: Oxford’s World Classics edition
- Anna Karenina: Movie tie-in edition
- Anna Karenina: Kindle edition
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