Jacqueline Bisset in Anna Karenina (1985)

Straight Forwards for Anna Karenina

Whilst travelling by train to Moscow, aristocrat Anna Karenina (Jacqueline Bisset) meets dashing cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Christopher Reeve) who immediately becomes enchanted by the beautiful Anna despite the fact she is married to Count Alexei Karenin (Paul Scofield). It leads to a complicated and tragic love affair as not only is there Alexei in the mix but also Kitty (Judi Bowker), Anna's sister-in-law's sister who has been close to Vronsky and can see that he has become charmed by the beauty from Saint Petersburg.

Isn't it always the way, you wait for one bus to come along and then two arrive at the same time. In truth I wasn't waiting for a bus or in this case "Anna Karenina" to come along but I found myself shortly after reviewing the elaborate production which is the 2012 version of Leo Tolstoy's novel I had the 1985 made for TV version show up. And the two are very different with this 1985 version being a much more traditional period drama full of impressive sets and costumes with actors delivering their lines in a period fashion.

Christopher Reeve in Anna Karenina (1985)

Now before I go any further I will tackle the elephant in the room which is the fact that this version of "Anna Karenina" is a TV movie which rumbles in at 150 minutes. But this is a TV movie which was clearly invested in and I would imagine that before this premiered on TV back in March 1985 there would have been a huge promotional push as it has that feel of being an event movie. As such it is in many ways superior to your every day sort of TV movie and in truth has the production values of a big screen movie so shouldn't be dismissed as quickly as most TV movies are.

That done with I will say that whilst a good production this version of "Anna Karenina" didn't grab me as much as I would have liked. Yes the sets are good and the costumes look glamorous, whilst it does a decent job of delivering the main aspects of the story but something for me is missing. That thing is chemistry as whilst each actor individually plays their parts well with Christopher Reeve making the movie by being dashing and almost bringing a touch of the Rhett Butler about him you just don't believe that there is a romantic spark between Bisset's Anna and Reeve's Vronsky. In fact the tension relationship between Anna and Alexei is far more convincing with Paul Scofield delivering a measured performance. It is what lets the movie down because far too often it feels like actors going through the motions.

What this all boils down to is that this 1985 version of "Anna Karenina" ticks a lot of boxes from the sets to the costumes. But for a dramatic love story it lacks chemistry with each of the actors individually doing a good job but never really sparking off of each other.