Director: Joe Wright
Based on: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Keira Knightley is similar to Johnny Depp, in a way. While Johnny Depp acts all kinds of weird characters, and almost always work with the same director, I guess in a way Knightley is the female version of Depp; she is always in period movies. You name it, she's there. Whether she's in recent history (WWII) or far away from it, or even in fantasy, she always in costume that it's now a rare treat to see her in something modern. Anna Karenina is one of her period projects, one that got recognized in the Oscar Awards. Prior to watching the movie, I had no exposure to the novel or to the other adaptations. Guess it can be said that it's from a fresh perspective. While the movie does have some beauty to it, I found the rest uneven, ending it in in a disappointing note.
Set in Imperial Russia, it revolved around the life of Anna Karenina, wife of Karenin, who happened to encounter Vronsky during a visit in Moscow. Overcome with their passions, they begin a lucid affair that was unintentionally exposed, damaging her marriage. Their story wasn't the only one engulfed in love, as minor characters are introduced with their own perceptions of love.
Being used to period dramas, the role doesn't seem to be complicated for Knightley, as she hit the notes right with her portrayal of Anna Karenina. She may be a bit too theatrical with her actions, but it only aided her status of a lover. Jude Law fits the role as Karenin but he does not appear at important scenes, nor his character and performance stand out to compliment Knightley's. I don't know what to feel about Johnson playing Anna's lover. The only other movie I've seen him in was Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, and he made a perfect romantic comedy partner. He does have the charisma to play the lover of Anna, and has charm that makes women fall for him, but I wouldn't call his casting perfect. He has defining scenes in the film, but while he fared well with Knightley in the beginning, his screen chemistry with her started waning towards the end.
While I enjoyed Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander's scenes, there was a focus in their own personal lives that lengthened the movie that was too long to begin with. Adding unnecessary scenes to a supposed love affair brought attention away from the leads, which led to the lost of momentum in the progress of the story. I think that the script could have been better if the focus really was on Anna and not allowed other elements to distract the motion of the plot. Because of the other story lines, parts about Anna, her husband and her lover became rushed, lessening the impact the story is supposed to have with regards to love.
I did like Wright's usage of a theater as a setting. It reminded me of Shakespeare's All the World's a Stage...taken in a literal context. The transition of the setting from one scene to another, how it felt like everything was a play, was great. It's something new, but it was something critics didn't approve of. The movie was artistic. It didn't result to long verbal storytelling and instead decided to show the events through impassioned actions. Some scenes were beautiful to watch. If there was one thing I liked about this adaptation is that it used a different style in telling a story that has been adapted so many times. No wonder it was nominated for cinematography, production and costume design.
Still, an artistic take on a story that has been adapted before does not do justice to the novel if the script was sloppy. The movie was all over the place that it became hard to appreciate. Some scenes did not need to be included. Some scenes were striking, but towards the end, it became boring. I would have liked it if it had focus and strengthened its themes instead of distributing it to the minor characters that did not do anything to the film.