Anna Karenina : That Train Wreck Called Love?

December 9, 2012 3 Comments

Rating:  8/10

Anna Karenina is a stunningly beautiful film.

Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice and Atonement) creates an imaginative  world for Tolstoy’s famous story of a woman driven by passion to abandon her life.  Wright sets much of the action upon a stage, reminding us of the artifice of  Russian society which nonetheless scripts the behavior of its players.  This visually creative effect is dazzling as characters actually wind their way backstage, through scaffolds and sets.   Such complexity at times  creates an artistic distance between us and the story which diminishes the  immediate emotional wallop that such a tragic story should provide.   Whether the impact is missed or just delayed(savored) is difficult to answer.

Anna’s(Keira Knightley) consuming love for Vronsky(aaron Taylor-Johnson) is filmed beautifully, but lacks the at times seems to lack the emotion that would convince us of the intensity that drives them to abandon everything else.    It is staged, which keeps us at a safe distance.   Or does it?   Although I would not agree with some critics who found themselves “rooting for the train”, I’m still not sure if Wright’s theatrical metaphor competes with the story in ways that interfere or provides a unique and complex frame that requires time to process and absorb.

Anna is complicated and not easily “likeable” , presenting a problem for the audience searching for someone to identify with and cheer for.   Is this a problem or a challenge?   Does Anna confuse love with addiction? (Do we?)  What is her paranoia about?  (Do we know more than we wish to acknowledge?)   She may, in fact qualify for a diagnosis of “borderline personality”, with her impulsive behavior , intense idealizing , emotional instabilty,  identity confusion and self destructive behavior  complicating her life and the lives of those who love her.    In fact, we a provided many prompts to side with the cuckolded Karenin(played with unending reserve by Jude Law).

Secondary characters add the to the already robust plot and we are presented with variations of couples in/out of love.  Although the subplots explore bourgeois hypocrisy while extolling  the purity of those who value the land, this is ultimately a movie about love.

“Why do they call it love?”  is the question raised in the film by one of the struggling characters.   The answer may be tragic, but it would be a shame to avoid the ride.   This is a Must See Movie        Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
3 Comments to “Anna Karenina : That Train Wreck Called Love?”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Anna Karenina is like Hester Collyer in “The Deep Blue Sea”: married, but not romantically in love with her husband, who is a very good man. What should she do, stay with her husband or run off with Count Vronsky, who she thinks is the love of her life? On the first option, her life is empty; on the second, it is miserable because of her extreme jealousy. Her life is tragic because there is no third option, and the two options she has are not very good.

    Are there different options for others? Well, her brother has been unfaithful to his wife, Dolly, and she is willing to put up with her husband’s infidelity. Further, Anna’s brother does not seem to want to leave Dolly. Call this option the reluctant but prudent bargain.

    It is Dolly’s sister, Kitty, who asks, “Why do they call it love?”, to which Dolly responds, “Because it’s love,” thereby indicating that she thinks it is indefinable, and so like terms such as “pain” and “pleasure.” In the end Kitty finds love with Levin, a simple man who loves working in the field and having Kitty and a family. In a review of the film, A. O. Scott writes,

    Levin is widely understood to be Tolstoy’s alter ego, and his idea of love — as the pure, ennobling union of souls — is an idealistic rebuke to the cynical amorality that festers in the cities. When it visits Levin, the film exchanges the trappings of theatricality for a lyrical naturalism, inhaling the fresh air of open fields and the homely aromas of a drafty wooden manor house.

    What do the feelings Kitty and Levin have for each other have in common with the feelings Anna and Vronsky have between them? Maybe Kitty meant to ask, “Why do they call it love and not lust?”

  2. R J says:

    Although it was visually beautiful and interesting, it was an inappropriate style for Tolsoy. Vronsky was a JOKE! Tolstoy would weep in his grave if he saw this travesty of a ‘movie’. Anyone who has ever read the book, will understand why so many of us detest this ‘train wreck’ of a movie. There was a fairly decent version of this movie done in 1983 with Jacqueline Bisset who was perfect for the role of Anna Karenina, based on the book’s desciprtion. Also Christopher Reeve cut a dashing Vronky, unlike the pansy who played in this theatrical version. I would have walked out after 5 minutes, but I was with other people and had to stay throughout the whole movie. In some ways. it grew on me, but it was entirely inappropriate. Go back and read the actual book, please.

  3. Robert MacDonell says:

    The entire film was a train wreck. A very, very poor adaptation of a great novel. The spinning effects made me dizzy and nauseated.
    Not worth the celluloid it was filmed on.

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