Skip to main content

Review: All the World's a Stage (Anna Karenina)

Of all the many literary classics that have graced the silver screen, Anna Karenina is perhaps the most beloved. Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice have been made into features almost as often, but even those pictures don't have the prestige that Anna Karenina does.

If the name Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) were to come up in gossip circles, she would be spoken of highly. She is the young and attractive wife to government officer Karenin (Jude Law). While Karenin loves his wife, he is distant, their marriage is one of convenience. No embers of passion burn when they are together. Her life is not completely lacking in love though, Anna imparts that love to her son.

Yet, some wants just do not go away.

Despite the conventions of society, despite what she knows to be a bad idea, wife and mother Anna has fallen madly in love with Russian officer Vronsky (Aaron Johnson). When they meet at the grand ball, they only have eyes for each other. The romance about to transpire is obvious to everyone, including Anna's husband.

Her cuckolded husband Karenin is not unreasonable in his demand that the two be discreet, but the love that Anna and Vronsky share cannot be repressed.

There is a B story revolves that revolves around Vronsky's spurning of Kitty, who is repeatedly courted by the demure Levin (Domnhall Gleeson), chum of Anna's brother Count Oblonsky (Matthew MacFadyen). Infidelity, as it seems, is also an issue for the brother battling the same lustful wiles that are plaguing his sister. Levin has none of these faults and he spends his days contemplating the nature of life.

Tolstoy paid equal attention to both Anna and Levin in his novel, but it is easy to understand why a romantic affair would be played up.

Additionally, what separates Anna Karenina from many film adaptations of the classics is Joe Wright's decision to place the proceedings on a theatrical stage. Wright starts off like every other version of the film in Oblonsky's study, but this study is located in the arch of a stagnant theatre. The director never misses an opportunity to flaunt his stylistic choice, yet in doing so he brings more attention to himself than the story.

The staged aspect of Anna Karenina initially has promise, but it removes all of the emotional bonds that Keira Knightley's performance depends on. The strength of Tolstoy's play is the resonance of Anna's raw emotion. She is perhaps, literature's most pitiable figure.

It's easy to get at what Wright's motioning toward: life for the wealthy in 19th Century Russia was a show, but it's too meta for its own good. That the film succeeds at all is due entirely to the tenacity of Keira Knightley.

**1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…