Anna Karenina (DVD + Digital Copy + UV Copy)I used to think that you could say what you like about director Joe Wright, but he never let his artistry get in the way of telling the story. My opinion, after watching this, is: you can say what you like about Joe Wright. As a young man, I read this classic story of a high-class, 19th-century, Russian woman who dumps her husband, a highly respected public official, for a young military officer. I was probably too inexperienced in life to fully appreciate it at the time, so I was looking forward to seeing Wright's masterly handling of it. I knew that his was an unusual take on it, with most of the action taking place in a run-down theatre, but I trusted him not to metaphorically dance in front of the camera shouting, "Hey, look, everybody, at what a fantastic director I am!" I was wrong. Though lavish and demonstrating Wright's appreciation for good music, it was so stagey that at times I thought I was watching a ballet. He re-uses some ideas from his earlier films; we get a scene with Anna and Vronsky dancing together as if they are alone in the room, which is a rehash of a scene between Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice but without the brilliance with which that scene was handled. I didn't get any handle on who Anna was, or why she would fall for someone who still seemed wet behind the ears. At her best, Keira Knightley can act, but this isn't her best. You'd think Aaron Taylor-Johnson could look the part of a dark, handsome fellow for whom Anna might fall (although sounding it is another matter), so why he plays Vronsky as practically a blond is beyond me. Despite supposedly being a cold fish, Jude Law cut a more sympathetic figure as her husband. The other love story, between the idealistic Levin and the inexperienced Kitty, is well done. A landowner who wants to put the world to rights with schemes to improve the peasants' lot, he has somewhat rigid ideas about an ideal of womanhood which are shattered by Kitty's interest in Vronsky. I was touched by the way she had to explain to him that as a young girl, she could hardly be expected to be sure of who she was and what she wanted. However, this secondary storyline didn't compensate for the failure of the main plot. It's never bothered me in the past that Wright is regarded as arty. Atonement is my all-time favourite movie and not only did I love Hanna, but so did my 13-year-old grandson and 70-year-old sister, neither of whom go in for arty stuff. This time, however, he hasn't got his priorities right. I'll buy this dvd because it's a movie that's sumptuous to look at and I want to see if I've missed anything - I'm getting a bit deaf in my old age, and whoever's in charge of the sound system at the local cinema doesn't know the difference between volume and clarity - but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone else.
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