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on 25 August 2013
"Anna Karenina" was one of the books that I first called "favourite", and I was looking forward to Joe Wright's adaptation (after what I thought was a magnificent work that he did with Atonement [DVD] [2007]), having heard that he set the film in the fantasy theatre world. Such a bold move, I imagine the division of opinions is also influenced but this unusual setting, which many people would have not liked from the start.

I am torn. I so wanted to love this film, I made piece with youth and typical performance of Keira Knightly. I agree with previous reviewers who say that Keira is no Anna, she is too young and out of her depth when portraying the all-consuming passion for the man who is not her husband. (Moreover, this is absolutely not how I, personally, imagined Anna to be.) I opened my mind to the film and prepared to not expect a straightforward adaptation of Tolstoy's novel, as it is not the book we watch here. It's Tom Stoppard's screenplay and Wright's ingenious bold production. Many, many things that I still remember from the book were overlooked, such as the first ball Anna attends in Moscow where she steals Vronsky from Kitty - her entrance in the dark purple dress should have been breath-taking and magnificent - that's how it felt to me when I read the book. I guess Leo Tolstoy's language is still more powerful than the language of Wright, the director. What about Anna's obsession on death throughout the novel? Even her own suicide at the end of the film did not leave me feeling shocked and shaken.

Nevertheless, I found this film visually beautiful (fantastic costumes!) and lavish. It almost had a dream-like quality. I imagine it worked fantastically well in the cinema. Jude Law IS Karenin, he nails the role perfectly. But "Anna Karenina" the film, bold and beautiful, is not the deep and overwhelming tragedy that would deserved the the five stars of a great film. I did not feel emotionally shaken and in deep sympathy with Anna, feelings which I certainly had after reading the book.

As the NY Times said: "Bad literary adaptations are all alike, but every successful literary adaptation succeeds in its own way."

For those who have not read the book, I highly recommend it to add multi layers and much greater understanding to the film.

P.S. Out of the mouths of babes... I started to watch this film with a young child, who, upon seeing Keira Knightly, asked "Why the Princess of the Caribbean is there?" That's another argument for Ms Knightly's typical performance. She might be called Anna here, but...
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on 13 February 2013
Having read the book, I was interested in seeing Joe Writes version on this timeless classic. To get one thing straight, I do appreciate the script written by Tom Stoppard and his attempt to make a film out of Anna Karenina, but it cannot be denied that with a 1000 page book, an attempt to shorten it down to a 2 hour film will be quite hazardous and risky. I commend the sumptuous and completed lavish costumes. They were so visually appealing as well as certain landscapes. That is a certain aspect I find that Joe Write does well.
However, the whole idea of filming most of the film on a stage to symbolise how Anna's life was manipulated signifying that her role was to be acted out to please society/audience instead of living a life of freedom. I felt that whilst this idea was interesting, Write over uses this idea to the extent where it just becomes boring. The entire film is centered on this idea and it just felt towards the middle of the film that it was now boder-lining cliched.
The acting was the biggest turn off for me. I found that most of the cast was terribly miscast. Even though Write has a very strong relationship with Knightley after their partnership in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, he should have explored a list of different actors to be chosen to play Anna instead of giving the role to Knightley without an audition. Yes, Knightley is indeed very beautiful, however she lacks the maturity and wisdom that Anna presents in the text. It seemed like her relationship with Vronsky was more of a fling instead of an enduring sense of passion. With Vronsky, he had a rather feminine quality to him which contradicted everything Vronsky portrayed in the book. When comparing actors such as Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd who also played Vronsky in the 1997 film and the 2000 ITV production, they had a very masculine personna which was what attracted Anna to Vronsky. He was energetic and charismatic which made Anna fall in love with him as her husband was now fragile and god-fearing.
However, it cannot be denied that the casting of Kitty and Levin were very well done. Alicia Vikander was able to initially show the naive and sheltered Kitty to perfection and was able to show how the character Kitty later flourishes into a wise and sensible young woman. I felt that *SPOILER* the relationship with Kitty and Levin was very genuine and not forced. There was the level of intamacy and passion and intamacy between the two which was identicle in the text. They were both reserved.
I know this review is basically just trying to find the inaccuracies in the book however, essentially any adaption of a timeless classic should not vastly falter. Essentially, making a film version of Anna Karenina will always be very tricky as such a complex and long. It felt like bits and pieces were chopped up that it didnt make sense *SPOILER*( about how Anna began to degrade. Her hallucinations were very vague leaving the audience wondering why she would commit suicide. )
Whilst I do truly agree that the costumes and settings were spectacular, the rest of the film in general was very disappointing. The chemistry between Vronsky and Anna just did not appear to be genuine and overall, there was a sense Write was trying to mock and really jeuvenilise the Russian Aristocracy through the idiotic portrayal of Stiva (Oblonsky) and Countess Betsy.
In my humble opinion, watch the 2000 itv television series. It is relatively new and it does the book justice as it gives time for the story to set and not appeared rushed.
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on 11 May 2013
A beautifully made film, which may, however, not suit the purists.

I like the use of the old theatre as a background. The reviews explain the thoughts behind the decision to use the theatre as a base, and I think this information is important to have before watching the film.

An excellent cast. On first viewing I wasn't sure about Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky, but having seen the film several times, he becomes more convincing.

This is a film which gets better and better each time it is seen.

The costumes are fabulous, and thoroughly deserve the Oscar received.
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on 12 April 2013
This film seems to have divided opinion. But I agree with those who found it imaginative, moving and refreshing: a new take on period drama. I didn't have high hopes for it (although I usually love Stoppard, I find it hard to warm to Keira) but watched it once, became entranced, and then had to see it again.

I have to admit I have not read the novel. A great deal is inevitably lost in reducing 800-odd pages to 2-hour's screentime. That said, I believe Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard have achieved something else with this film: a masterpiece in a new medium. I hope we shall see a greater appreciation of it over time.

Other reviewers have said they found it odd that much of the action takes place in a theatre. To me that was successful, the stylised setting mirroring the artificiality of the world the characters inhabit. It reminded me more of a ballet than a play or a musical: the constant movement of characters around the stage / auditorium reflecting the inexorable motion of the story towards tragedy; the steam train indeed.

I came away with sympathy for every one of the main characters. Even Vronsky. And I am now determined to read the book. For a film, that's quite an achievement.
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on 21 July 2013
Just finished watching this film - looked like a lovely romantic costume drama in trailers - unfortunately, the 'arty' producers decided to make the vast majority of this film look like you were sitting in the audience of some mind numbing play. Because of this, the film lost that costume drama atmosphere, it did improve towards the end but, I was left feeling cheated - it could of been wonderfully glamorous and sweet - the acting (in this strange arrangement) was lacking the intensity of the deep emotions this story deserved - not the actors fault I feel- blame the 'over pretentiousness' of the producers. You won't be missing anything by not viewing this film.
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on 18 March 2013
I was rather looking forward to watching this film, as I missed its showing at the cinema. I have to admit though, I was somewhat disappointed. The story is very good and I'm sure other productions would be brilliant to watch. I think the problem is actually Kiera Knightly's portrayal of Anna - there are definitely a large range of emotions, but lacking in depth and conviction.
Other than that, the acting is as expected.
My only other 'problem' is the way in which the entire production plays-out as though it is on stage - this is definitely only my opinion and others may really enjoy this.

I have watched it a few times, but it lacks... umph.
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on 8 April 2013
As a Tolstoy fan, I found this film to be drivel. I found the cast to be as annoying as the plot. It would be fun for wives who like to fantasize about other men but for sane people, and faithful spouses, this film is really just saying nothing about nothing, in a nothing kind of way.
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on 19 December 2014
Absolutely fantastic. If you have read reviews on here about it being weird, just go with it. Its absolutely beautifully filmed and fantastic film. It isnt run of the mill, and maybe thats why some dont like it, but if you enjoy a film that isnt laid out in black and white you will love it. I usually find Keira Knightley mildy irritating, yet do like her as an actress, in this she has blossomed into a woman and is a fantastic lead character. Take a punt, you might just be surprised!
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on 26 November 2013
I though the film was rubbish. I had high expectations having had it recommended to me, but I could not make out where they were in the film - was it on a stage? or out in the streets? Was bored with it long before it finished and will most probably dump the disc.
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on 4 March 2013
Lush, gorgeous presentation. Decadent early 20th century Russia presented as a theatrical piece.
I wanted to give Anna a good smack - she could have had her cake and eat it, but was not strong enough in character
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