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Anna Karenina

Directed by Joe Wright

UK, 2012

Cornerhouse, 9 September 2012

Anna Karenina

Tolstoy’s great novel gets a radical cinematic treatment despite – or, on second thoughts, because of – the conceit of setting it in a theatre.

What this seems to have done, in actual fact, is free up the director’s imagination.  At any rate, he hasn’t settled for an earnest  costume-drama realism or felt an onerous obligation to present some form of spurious authenticity.

There is a fine instance of the delightful consequence of all this at the ball where Anna and Vronsky first dance and Kitty, Vronsky’s girl, looks on hapless.  As they waltz, the other dancing couples stand frozen.  In essence, it becomes a pas de deux (or trois, if you count Kitty: the camera includes her), wholly fitting within the theatrical setting and extremely effective too.  The horserace across the stage, likewise, with the fate of Vronsky’s fallen horse foretelling Anna’s own fate, is another fine set-piece.  There are several.

It is a visionary film and I loved it all, pretty much.  Of many excellent performances, Aaron Johnson as Vronsky was outstanding.  And Tom Stoppard’s smart screenplay doesn’t seem to have done the film any harm either.