BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
DECEMBER 9, 2012
Despite its tragic and flawed characters, “Anna Karenina” is visually evocative and perfectly stylized, combining the ideas and set design of live theater with the motions and photography of the cinema. At times, director Joe Wright draws attention to this stage play aspect by including the edge of the stage and moving set pieces, yet at other times, we travel outside into the snowy world of Moscow. Either way, there is always a tango-like movement to the camera, constantly shifting, constantly entertaining.
In one of Keira Knightley’s best performances, she still does not command enough means to sell herself as leading lady material, lacking a certain charm that exudes from fellow actresses like Kelly Macdonald. Knightley lacks a range in facial expressions, constantly drawing attention to itself, with a scrunched, sour look repeatedly finding its way on her face. Although this does not entirely hinder the film from being enjoyable, as Jude Law can act past this lack of emotion from his counterpart, it does refrain from being a complete masterpiece the way Tolstoy imagined it.
What Knightley lacks, however, Joe Wright makes up for in bringing to light the secondary love story of Tolstoy’s novel, between Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty, played by the young and exquisitely overshadowing Alicia Vikander. Vikander’s radiance in the role contains the most fulfilling character arc, starting as the naive pie in the eye of Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) until he meets Anna. Kitty then transforms into a loving, human being, drawn to Levin for his genuine and truly romantic nature. When they are together, she gives a glimpse of the woman she will become, and Vikander embodies that trait in her acting.
Reasonably the perfect excuse for a future classic, this period piece is expertly crafted and deserving of any awards, despite its shortcomings in Knightley. As this novel is from 1878, the expanded love triangle and tragic lovers are not new story devices. Still, with Joe Wright’s directorial magic, “Anna Karenina” is at least breathed a new life.
November 16, 2012
by Leo Tolstoy
(for some sexuality and violence)
Melanie Ann Oliver