The Stage is Set for Karenina
Aristocrat Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) receives word from her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) in Moscow as his marriage is in trouble due to his own infidelity and would like his sister to travel from Saint Petersburg to help save it. Stuck in her own cold marriage to Count Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), who she bore a son, Anna heads to Moscow by train and meets cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) when she disembarks and immediately feels an attraction between them. But as Anna learns Vronsky is due to propose to Kitty (Alicia Vikander) who just happens to be the younger sister of her own sister-in-law Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) whose marriage she has just helped to save. Having been invited to stay at the ball things become complicated when Anna dances with Vronsky causing tongues to wag.
I have never read "Anna Karenina", I have never even watched one of the many other movie versions and that is a problem when it comes to Joe Wright's impressive production of "Anna Karenina" starring Keira Knightley. The problem is that whilst I would never suggest that the Leo Tolstoy story lacked substance I will suggest that Joe Wright's version does. That comment is not intended to offend but I wouldn't be surprised if it does but as someone who doesn't know the story it is the case.
Now the issue with this version of "Anna Karenina" stems from Wright's attempts to be creative with it seeming that the entire movie is set in what appears to be a run down theatre with the seats removed and the paint peeling from the walls in places making the entire auditorium the stage. So we have the creativity of the sets being changed, sometimes in front of our faces, sometimes through camera trickery and the dizzying effect of being spun around the room. The thing is that the creativity of the production distracts from the actual story telling and at times almost approaches a mix of theatre and ballet with its heavily choreographed production.
Accompanying this are the stunning costumes which add to that sense of this being a spectacular production where the stunning look is more critical than anything else. The thing is that whilst the look is always spectacular the production is not always consistent and at times Wright seems to lose the theatre production style which is a shame as it is the movies USP and when it becomes inconsistent the movie falters.
But here is the real problem because with so much attention lavished on the production and the creativity it feels to me that the story of love goes missing. This may not be an issue for those who already know Tolstoy's classic but it proves a stumbling block for those like me as it means that this version of "Anna Karenina" becomes all about the look. And that extends to the characters as whilst the performances of Keira Knightley & Aaron Taylor-Johnson are good they end up being dominated by how they look rather than how they act and that means how gorgeous Keira Knightley looks in fabulous costumes.
What this all boils down to is that "Anna Karenina" is certainly an impressive and entertaining production with wonderful sets and even more wonderful costumes. But this adaptation is dominated by the look and the creativity of the setting rather than the telling of the story which makes it a little hard for those not familiar with the story.