From Russia, with blind love

CLASSY: Keira Knightley plays title character Anna Karenina.
CLASSY: Keira Knightley plays title character Anna Karenina.

Anna Karenina
M, 2hr 20min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

Anna Karenina is classy enough, scandalous and lavish, but maybe too theatrical for its own good.

You see, director Joe Wright has crammed all 864 pages of Leo Tolstoy's famous 1867 Russian love story into 130 cinematic minutes.

That was no easy feat, so he has filmed much of it on a stage, which might be a method too arty-farty for its own good when the Russian scenery could have given scenes befitting Dr Zhivago.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with the acting, the cinematography, or the magnificent costumes and sets. But there is even a horse race on stage and when an errant horse comes careering into the audience, it is just a bit odd.

The almost flawless Keira Knightley is Anna, the happy wife of government official Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) until she encounters a cad called Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and eventually allows herself to be seduced by him.

This is just not done in imperial Russia, nyet, nyet, not by a cavalry officer - and they are ostracised for it.

But both are blinded by love, try to part, and then venture to live in sin, which is unpardonable in those times for aristocrats.

There is a parallel love interest between a friend of Anna's brother, Konstantin Levin (Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (Alicia Vikander).

Levin works on his estate alongside the peasants and it crossed my mind that, a few decades on, they, along with the dastardly Bolsheviks, would scythe off the heads of the Russian aristocracy.

I found it difficult, being rather thick at times, to link the links between all of these characters who are high-brow Russkies, but are speaking in high English plums. We see them up very close in the film, so much so that in one intimate scene, as the tongues are inter-twining, the camera even exposes wispy strands of saliva between the lips.

A high-class production, but it was just that blimming stage.

Manawatu Standard