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Anna Karenina

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Anna Karenina - 3/9/2012 1:59:39 PM   
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Interesting... - 3/9/2012 1:59:39 PM   


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From: Nottingham
I just read the 'other' magazine's online review of this, which gave it 2* for being hollow and merely shiny. This seems to have divided the two as much as Antichrist did. I will now have to see this purely to see how professionals can disagree so much on the same objective topic - i.e. the artistic qualities of a piece of cinema.

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Boring!! - 3/9/2012 2:38:15 PM   


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I fell asleep, while watching this... when I woke up I wish I hadn't. Was terribly boring, very wooden acting and not my cup of tea.

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RE: Boring!! - 5/9/2012 2:07:51 AM   

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as the relationship moves on the central pair’s dilemma become less involving. More touching is the young romance between Gleeson’s Levin and Alicia Vikander’s Kitty

I can't figure out if this is a criticism or not because that's how you're supposed to feel. From the book anyway.


How dare you call me inhumane. Right you fucker. I'm going to do the washing up.

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RE: Boring!! - 5/9/2012 11:43:46 PM   


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ORIGINAL: J_BUltimatum

I fell asleep, while watching this... when I woke up I wish I hadn't. Was terribly boring, very wooden acting and not my cup of tea.

Wooden Acting?!! from Kiera Knightly?,well I never

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RE: Boring!! - 6/9/2012 8:46:56 PM   
Super Hans

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ORIGINAL: J_BUltimatum

I fell asleep, while watching this... when I woke up I wish I hadn't. Was terribly boring, very wooden acting and not my cup of tea.

Wooden Acting?!! from Kiera Knightly?,well I never

There's an actress who's made a career of simply looking like a classic English rose.

Not really familiar with the the story but it looks like fairly typical Joe Writght from what I know of him. I know he's made a couple of different films, but period drama literary adaptions starring Keira Knightly have got to be getting a bit predictable?


"Its staring at you in the face Mark, there's only one more sex to try..."

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Not a fan - 8/9/2012 8:53:28 PM   


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Well made but still dull shite with some terrible acting. I was so happy when it was over.

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RE: Not a fan - 10/9/2012 9:22:32 PM   
Dr Lenera


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Russia in the late 1900’s: Prince Oblonsky has just had his extra-marital affair discovered by his wife Dolly and the family is in turmoil just as Oblonsky’s sister, Anna, who is unhappily married to Alexei Karenin, is about to arrive. Meanwhile Dolly’s younger sister Kitty is being pursued by two men; landowner Konstantin Levin and army officer Count Vronnsky. Anna arrives at the station and her and Vronsky briefly see each other, though at the same time a railway worker accidently falls in to his death in front of a train. At a ball, Anna and Vronsky, ignoring what was obviously a bad omen, begin to dance and at the same time fall in love......

The latest version of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, is an admirable and ambitious work but one that is not a total success. When he realised the budget allotted to the project would not be enough for convincing sets, director Joe Wright came up with the intriguing idea of setting nearly all of the story in a theatre where not just the stage but the seating area are incorporated into the proceedings. Backdrops constantly change. characters seem to move from one lavish set to another. When people are travelling by train, we see not only the characters in a set resembling the interior of a train compartment but shots of a toy train. This is certainly interesting, but does it really work? As an artistic experiment [albeit one necessitated by circumstances], it does succeed by and large. The film is constantly interesting visually, the fact that it seems to blur the line between stage and screen most definitely not resulting in a film that is dull or static. As a way of telling the story, though, it is less successful.

A few days ago I reviewed a film called Orlando which was based on a very unusual book and therefore required stylised handling. I’m not sure, though, that a more ‘classical’ work like Anna Karenina benefits from it. Though it is many other things, so many in fact that no film can probably do justice to it, it is most famously a doomed, tragic romance, and when watching a story of this kind one wants to be moved and even brought to tears. I happily admit that I am certainly susceptible to weepiness at times. Sadly, this movie left me cold and I doubt many handkerchiefs are being pulled out for the sad final third. A surprise considering this movie comes from the director of the shattering Atonement. The cast and even the story seem dwarfed by the settings and the directorial flourishes, something which I enjoy in some films but just doesn’t seem right for this one. Add to this some serious miscasting, most notably the far too young Keira Knightley, and the film becomes a bit problematic. Keira tries bless her, but yet again just reveals what an average actress she is and she certainly does not hold a candle to Greta Garbo in the role of Anna!

The early scenes are so short and rush by so fast that some unacquainted with the book or previous adaptations may have trouble working out who is who and what their relationships to each other are. Writer Tom Stoppard has attempted to pack in as much as he can, most notably including a not-always-included secondary love story which is a kind of mirror to that of Anna and Bronsky and is seemingly pure and innocent rather than sinful and destructive. This means the film, for a costume drama, certainly moves well for at least its first half while allowing Wright to give us some terrific directorial fireworks, something which won’t be a surprise to many. The highlight is a ball scene where, as Anna and Vronsky begin to fall for each other as they dance, the other dancers appear to freeze, as if time itself is freezing for the main couple and the camera just darts in and out around them. Their rising passion is illustrated by the camerawork becoming more and more manic in a way possibly inspired by the great ball scene in the 1947 version of Madame Bovary [not an entirely dissimilar story].

The use of colour, especially for the costumes, is striking throughout. I especially loved the way white was associated with Anna in her ‘happy’ state, perhaps illustrating that she is in a sort of ‘heaven’. A picnic scene with Vronsky has her, Vronsky and their tablecloth all white and it makes for a very pretty contrast with the lush green of their surroundings. Occasionally, for scenes that don’t require any sets, things do occur actually outside, mostly for the ‘secondary’ romance of the film, which by the way has one of the sweetest declarations of love I’ve seen in ages, involving toy letter blocks. This version of Anna Karenina is marginally more explicit than most and Knightley and Aaron-Taylor Johnson do convey some sexual passion but little else. Dario Marianelli’s music is left to supply much of the feeling and he gives us a gorgeous, evocative score. As usual, he is guilty of repeating the same theme a little but it was such a joy for me to hear decent film music after the crap musical backing of films like Total Recall and The Dark Knight Returns.

The final shot of this movie is of the theatre set with grass in and outside it. It’s an evocative image and, intentionally or it, it also sums up the awkwardness and conflicting elements of this Anna Karenina. On this instance, Wright has aimed too high and failed, but it’s an honourable failure and he has nothing to be ashamed of.

[rating: 6.5/10]


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I - 11/9/2012 3:09:11 AM   

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Maybe when I watch this I can finally finish reading it after that other Tolstoy film ruined the book for me...


That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne.

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A place where movie fans can come and behold some of the most awful films ever put to celluloid.

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RE: I - 11/9/2012 4:39:48 AM   

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It's hilarious that you didn't know the ending of that book.



There are certainly times where calling a person a cunt is not only reasonable, it is a gross understatement.


ORIGINAL: elab49
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RE: I - 11/9/2012 10:32:07 AM   
Wild about Wilder

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You know when you've lost all interest in a film when you start checking your watch while it's on me I got less than half-way through.

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FLASHMAN - 12/9/2012 11:19:39 AM   
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A beautiful, fearless film, but too clever for a tale of emotional attachment; sound familair???????????.........the same pop was always leveled at David Lean, and if the director maintains the same trajectory, he could end up with the same stature.

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FLASHMAN - 12/9/2012 11:19:41 AM   
Frank Comiskey


Posts: 144
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A beautiful, fearless film, but too clever for a tale of emotional attachment; sound familair???????????.........the same pop was always leveled at David Lean, and if the director maintains the same trajectory, he could end up with the same stature.

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Post #: 13
Too clever by half - 19/9/2012 11:13:11 AM   


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I have no idea what film the Empire reviewer watched, but it wasn't the Anna Karenina I saw last night! If we hadn't been with friends we would have left after 30 minutes. Ludicrously dull and ridiculously over clever by turns. Shame she didn't jump under the train at the start and saved me two hours of my life I'll never get back. The acting was passable but the staging was ridiculous. If you haven't got a budget to do justice to a story - don't do it !!

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Spectacular spectacular - 20/9/2012 5:06:52 PM   


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Having never seen Anna Karenina before, or read the book, I can't tell you whether Wright has managed a faithful adaptation but I can confirm that he's constructed an absorbing and thoroughly entertaining one. Due to budget constraints while filming almost the entire story takes place within an abandoned theatre. This means that Wright has to be both cunning and creative. The first act in particular is delightfully theatrical - pieces of set are whisked past and around the camera to create different locations, characters change costume in front of us, and the actors almost dance through scenes with every move choreographed to perfection. It almost feels like a musical and the feel of it is very Baz Luhrmann and so won't be to everyone's tastes but it utterly enchanted me. As the story progresses and the rigid rules and expectations beneath this apparently enchanted life are revealed we move away from the safe confines of the theatre and the sets become starker and more realistic. Personally I think this was a genius move by Wright, the transition from theatricality to realism reflects Anna's journey and realisation of how her actions will affect her apparently perfect life.

Despite the increasingly heavygoing story the cast are able to have a lot of fun with the characters and the early theatrical scenes. Matthew Macfadyen as Anna's jolly brother, Stiva, bristles comically from beneath and enormous Baltic moustache, and Jude Law leaves us in no doubt as to why Anna is bored of her marriage to him. The moment where he delicately removes an ancient and shrivelled prophylactic from within a pretty glass box, in anticipation of marital congress, would be enough to drive any woman into the arms of another man. Not least one who waltzes so prettily and has such glacial blue eyes *opens fan and fans self*. However Jude Law is also the most convincing emotionally, despite being a little dull he conveys how much he cares for Anna beneath his stolid exterior and I felt th

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RE: Anna Karenina - 20/9/2012 9:32:31 PM   

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I enjoyed the early part, that is, Anna Karenina, the movie of the graphic novel. But on the way back to Saint Petersburg the whole thing got very leaden and it became a bit of a stained glass window instead. The thing is you can see a good film in here if you took Anna and Vronsky out of it, which is a bit of a liability when you're adapting this particular novel. This was perhaps my favourite book that I was made to study at school and Levin quickly became perhaps my favourite character in literature. I sat through this and realised very quickly that I couldn't give a toss about Anna or her paramour, and then I remembered that I didn't give a toss about them when I did it for A Level either, but I still loved the book. I'd even go so far as to posit that really....really deep down Tolstoy didn't give a toss about them either. Since Levin basically is Tolstoy and he and Kitty's love life runs parallel to the central pairing (opposing train tracks – thank you Head of English, Mrs. Farrell) a large part of the subtextual emphasis of Anna Karenina is that the loves and losses of the prom king and queen are really only just the frippery of the bourgeoisie.

The greatest asset of Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard's adaptation is not only do they know this, but they really make a good effort to put it into palpable practice. The “real” outside locations Wright uses for Levin's bucolic life hit home as the difference between the real world and artifice in a film that puts artifice on a top billing. The film does well to ask whose concerns in this story are really “real” and “really” valid, and whose aren't? (Not everyone notices it right away but Anna's concerns don't become valid until she's lost everything. It's certainly not when she's scandalised, because adultery is allowed in the rules, it's when she “breaks the rules” by leaving her sainted husband with a bastard child that Tolstoy deems to care about her). Here the Levin, Kitty, and Dolly scenes (the real people) improve every time they're revisited. Domhnall Gleeson and Kelly MacDonald make you leave the cinema feeling that you've seen something worthwhile while Keira Knightley and Aaron Johnson-Toyboy admirably (to a certain extent) go through the necessary motions but leave absolute ardour in their wake.

I have to point out that I thought Domhnall Gleeson became a good Levin. He was a bit doe-eyed to begin with when Levin is pretty piercing and self-important to begin with. Ironically he's Matthew Macfadyen in Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice! That's who the character is, a sexually unappealing Mr. Darcy who cuts not-a-dash and leaves the ladies distinctly unsplashed. But Gleeson got there in the end I felt.

Watching this I think I know now how Anna Karenina should be done. Put matinee leading men and women in the support roles and put the most nuanced unusual, weirdly watchable new character actors in the Anna-Vronsky roles, this would perhaps “leaven” (see what I did there) the leaden passages that you just have to go through. If you're going to conceive of the character of Anna as a star vehicle then you'd better be pretty sure people like your star. Kate effing Middleton could do it right now and we'd all be bawling in the aisles, but people see the prospect of Keira Knightley's lupine pus meeting the shovel gauge of the 3.30 from Moscow and think that's the best pairing since lions and Christians. It invites a lot of cynicism. I wasn't overly cynical about Keira Knightley before watching this, but I feel I am now. I feel like I've known her for years, I feel like I've been down a Chilean fucking mine with her for the last three weeks. I'll feel guilty for not sending her a Christmas card after this.

Anyway. This is only the second adaptation of Karenina I've ever seen, the first was the Garbo talkie version with Frederic March as Vronsky and that version attests the fact that some versions don't even “do” Levin and Kitty. This makes it apparent to me that there are still things you can do with the central pairing to make that core aspect work, like up the ante on the whole Sophie's Choice, Anna and Sasha or whatever the fuck you call him...the wee boy. I didn't believe Knightley as a mother and I don't think the script sold that terrible agonised pull she feels where her son's concerned. The phrase “Fear and Loathing” has many touted origins but I found it in this book when I was 17 and had nothing better to do. It's when Anna's son sees or meets Vronsky for the first time and it says he looks at him with a mixture of “fear and loathing”, put that in the film! It gives Aaron Johnson something to think about and the kid creates a tension between Anna and Vronsky that doesn't seem to be in this.

I didn't particularly like Jude Law in this but in hindsight there is an investment (and you know, I think it works) to humanise Karenin. The minute I realised he wasn't a dick when I read it is when he stands over the cot of Anna and Vronsky's baby...and he has a “moment”. I wasn't sure they were going to touch upon that at all, but it turns out to be the big pay-off for Karenin (and spoiler...for the film as a whole). Until then Jude Law and the script have to do the cuckolded husband's humanity under the radar. There was a GREAT line that Karenin says (after a really oblique and heavily affected bonkers ball-room scene) about noticing something off in Anna's behaviour. He said “I didn't notice it myself, but I saw other people notice it.” That is it just Karenin and a million men fictional, or otherwise, who are like Karenin. Blinkered by anything of intimate relevance to them, but ever sensitive and watchful of how outsiders perceive his life. That was a brilliant line and I don't know if it was Tolstoy or Stoppard, but that was good.

To finish off I have to talk about the proscenium artifice of Wright's adaptation. I hadn't got the urge to see this version immediately because I thought it looked like a fucking Baz Luhrman. It isn't that thank God, and I remember from when Empire first previewed this project last year that the staged production came out of convenience, a way round the fact that Wright in just two films with Knightley had shot her in and out of every country mansion that still stood in England and most of Europe. There were no more locations he could take her. Fair enough. As in-your-face as this pageant is I was ultimately glad that they actually put the gimmick to actual plot and thematic work. There are three key-note scenes (the ball where Vronsky and Anna spark at Kitty's expense; Vronsky's race and the opera scene toward the end) where the key couple are the literal theatrical spectacle, and the division between the other characters, acting as the audience, and the lovers as the all-eyes-on-them players is so pronounced it actually makes the framing gimmick worthwhile. Elsewhere the fatalistic echoes that Tolstoy puts in the book are completely up Tom Stoppard's strasse. (Except for one fatalistic echo, where Wright super-imposes the chug of a train engine with a... shall we say... sexual shunt?). Just like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern you have an idea that you're watching a repeat recital of something terrible that has already happened and will continue to happen again and again wherever it is performed. Just as in Rosencrantz you have fictional characters who obviously don't know they're fictional, who have lives outside the audience's gaze. Levin takes a forlorn stroll even as the theatre cleaners are brushing up in front of him. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. A confrontation between Anna and Karenin (after she visits the boy on his birthday despite being forbade) is marred by the overexposure of artifice. Another area where I thought it sucked was in the depiction of the working class. Look at the poor working class in this, they don't have a single line between them and in choreographed movement they are like clock-work mice in the fucking Nutcracker. Perhaps this is a socialist joke between Wright and Stoppard, who knows, but it made me feel the whole thing was going to break into Sondheim.

It's not without it's moments; when it's good it's a perfect realisation of some of Tolstoy's greatest complexities. But it is inescapably dull for looooong periods where even the prancing ambition of virtuosity that starter-pistoled this out of the stalls ultimately knackers it after forty odd minutes.


< Message edited by demoncleaner -- 20/9/2012 9:33:27 PM >

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RE: Anna Karenina - 26/9/2012 10:34:04 PM   


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demoncleaner; thanks for putting into words what I've been trying to work out for the past couple of hours [just got back from the cinema]. Wish I'd known about the budget restraints before I went as I couldn't for the life of me work out what the hell was going on. Spent most of the film wishing that Keira/Anna would bring forward her appointment with the train and wondering where I'd seen that enchanting actress who played Kitty before [googled it when I got home; Alicia Vikander who was in A Royal Affair, one of the best films I've seen recently...she's going to be very big imo]. Seems to me that a film of a book that is all about passion is totally devoid of it. I did get upset when the horse died, though....

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Enchanting, But Somewhat Too Ethereal - 19/10/2012 11:42:20 PM   

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The main thing about Wright's Anna Karenina is that it is, first and foremost, a tragedy. The tale is told in a modern and punchy progession (which, surprisingly, translates rather well given that it's a period drama) which is altogether very original (the use of the theatre, for example), but does fail to capture the-down-to-earth appeal of the original story. It is unlikely to appeal to audience outside of its' target demographic as a result of this. Shot in a style that is lavish and spellbinding (I think it may be a tad too sexist to say 'feminine'), the stars are allowed their time to shine, with Knightley, as usual, excellent. Taylor-Johnson is somewhat miscast but he pulls the role off somewhat well, managing to find the grey area between hopeless romantic and cavalier hero. Jude Law is also on form as the husband to the doomed heroine, although his character is presented as somewhat undecided in his emotions, throwing off the balance of the story. For all it's flaws, it must be noted that the film works very well on its' own terms, however, the labored, albeit creative, style is overplayed, and thus, somewhat alienating for the viewer.

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