Anna Karenina (Wright, 2012)

Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)

If nothing else this is a bold move in set design and artistic vision. There are two stories here – one of Anna and her fall from grace into the depths of an unashamed affair, and the other of Levin and his journey of heartbreak and eventual love. Anna’s story, mostly set in the city, is told by putting real settings in theater set pieces. It creates a claustrophobic atmosphere and once I got over the fact that it feels somewhat gimmicky, I recognized that it was an effective way to portray the staginess of that lifestyle. Levin’s story, however, embraces the beauty of the countryside it is set in and the jolting shift in style helps create a greater city/country contrast than otherwise would have been possible.

anna karenina

So much of the film’s focus is on contrast – of styles, of tone, and of two people going in very different directions – that when a large portion of the film’s final third is spent on Anna and her melodramatic nervous breakdown, it doesn’t even feel like the same movie. It’s an overkill of epic proportions. I already know what she did was terrible, and that trust is something she can no longer give nor receive, and that there is shame from all angles. The best dramatics are all one-on-one: Anna and her husband, Anna and her lover, Levin and his girlfriend/wife. Anna vs. trust and shame and humiliation is boring.  6.75/10

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