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Anna Karenina Review

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Anna, the pampered wife of a government official, sacrifices her luxurious lifestyle and contact with her son to be with her soldier lover, Vronsky. However, his ardour cools when Russia goes to war.

★★★★★

In Bernard Rose's adaptation of Tolstoy's classic romantic tragedy, Sophie Marceau gets a shot at a famous role previously played by Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh and even Jacqueline Bisset. Unfortunately for her, this version manages to be both the most pretentious and anaemic yet.

In 1880s Russia beauteous Anna is the wife of wealthy old stick Karenin (James Fox). When she alights from a train shrouded in a photogenic blast of steam, her eyes lock on dashing cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Bean). And before you can say Alexei Alexandrovich, Anna is helplessly gripped by a ruinous passion that must and does lead to disaster.

Rose's film is the first to contract the eponymous heroine's love chronicle with that of the novel's parallel plot, the story of Levin (Molina), our reflective narrator. And frankly one is far more engaged by the course of Levin's love for Anna's sister-in-law Princess Kitty (Kershner) than in the histrionic journey of wan Anna and dishy but weak Vronsky from lust at first sight to weariness, despair and loathing.

Rose goes in for some florid set pieces which handsomely exploit the Moscow and St. Petersburg locations, and the costumes are divine. But the performances he gets are almost entirely off and the melodramatics resemble a silent movie with added sound. International casting provides a panoply of accents and mannerisms and these combine to torpedo the crucial impression of close blood kinship and caste that made the aristocrats of Imperial Russia such a rarefied, rigidly ordered and ultimately doomed breed.

Hopelessly artificial and unaffecting.