Movie Review: ANNA KARENINA - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Terry's Take

Movie Review: ANNA KARENINA

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Keira Knightley stars as Anna Karenina, the new movie based on Leo Tolstoy's famous 19th century novel, I admire the result more than I like it.

Knightley herself is superb in the role of an aristocrat's wife who enters an affair with calvary officer and experiences love and passion for the first time. But most of the film is set on and around the actual stage of a grand old theater, and that beautiful production design seems to keep the strong emotions of the characters at an artificial distance.
 
Anna: I was 18 when I got married when I got married, but it was not love.
Nearly every shot in this gorgeous film looks good enough to be a painting. But the strongest parts focus simply on two characters alone together.   Before they become lovers, Aaron Johnson as Count Vronsky catches up with Anna at a railway station.
 
Anna: Why are you leaving Moscow?
Count: What else can I do? I have to be where you are.
Anna: Stop! That's enough. Go back to Kitty (a young woman he's been flirting with).
Count: No.
Anna: This is wrong.
Count: It makes no difference.
Anna: You have no right.
Count: It makes no difference.

Anna got married when she was 18, but it was not a marriage based on love. Her husband is Aleksei Karenin, a cold fish played by Jude Law. Duty bound and proper, he quickly sees what's going on. But Anna is not about to give up her affair and she's not going to lie about it either.
    
Aleksei:  Your conduct was improper. It must not occur again….Perhaps I was mistaken.
Anna: No, you were not mistaken; I love him.

Vronsky is a bit of a cad, but it's clear he's as head-over-heels in love as Anna is.
 
Anna: Do you think my husband will make a present of me?
Vronsky: Leave him.
Anna: Leave him and be your mistress?
Vronsky: Yes. run away.
Anna (after a pause): I would never see my son again. (She is deeply attached to her five year old boy.)

Anna's passion eventually turns to tragic obsession--she sees no way out of her dilemma. And in fact, in spite of Tolstoy's clear sympathy for her, the story's most admirable character makes this telling comment.

Levin: Sensual desire indulged in for its own sake is greed and the misuse of something sacred.

I don't want to give the impression that ANNA KARENINA isn't worth seeing. it's just that its artful, theatrical style  may prevent this film from stirring you the way such a great story should.


      Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.        e mail: thunter@hawaiinewsnow.com