Monday, 17 September 2012

Anna Karenina

UK Release: 7th September 2012
Watched in Cinema: Wednesday 12th September 2012
Rating: 12A
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 2hrs 10mins
IMDb Plot Synopsis: Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.

My Review: There are so many things that I could say about this film but I fear I could not put them all into the adequate words - I shall try my best however!
This film is an odd one. It is an epic romance, an art-house film as well as having a noir-thriller quality that spirals into bizarreness by the end. But that isn’t to say that it isn’t very good! As I stepped out the cinema I knew I liked it but that I was more than a little confused about what exactly I had seen. Thankfully it wasn’t confusion of the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy variety but confusion nonetheless. It has been said to be pretentious which could be used to describe how clever - perhaps overly so - it is. It ducks and weaves between plot and metaphor, skimming over characters, and instead displaying vividly stunning settings, locations and costumes which every know and then struck me with awe.
The theatre and the barren fields were both treated with beauty and respect and the whole film glowed with opulence. It’s just a shame I didn’t like Anna herself much. She never quite clicked for me unfortunately, which I believe is really down to Keira Knightley. While I loved her in Atonement and Pride & Prejudice (among other films) - both directed by Joe Wright who was behind Karenina - the role of Anna had a complexity to her which unfortunately felt a little out of reach.
The film also felt a bit long, not helped by the complex metaphors weaved into the plot (which as I think further about the film, I see even more of!) and so I get the feeling that perhaps it thought it was more than it actually was. 
It’s a romp of sorts, with Baz Luhrmann style cinematography. That is what I absolutely enjoyed the most about the film and made it such a pleasure to watch; without which I would not nearly have enjoyed it as much as I did. The theatre was a metaphor for the contrast between princesses, counts and countesses etc and the workers on the fields. It’s all staged and fake and only outside the theatre is the ‘real’ Russia. This followed through with the bedrooms being ‘off stage’ and the poorer inhabitants of Moscow being up above the stage looking down upon the rich and powerful centre stage. Anna went up there when she was an outsider and even went below stage at one point and it was such an interesting way to use the set as an integral part of the story-telling. The first 20-30 minutes or so of the film I noticed how the camera continuously followed characters through the theatre as the sets changed around them; almost as if it were one take. I instantly loved this use of camera movement and thought it such an ingenious way of emphasising the falseness of it and how the ‘theatre’ is so easily interchangeable. This method came into it’s own during the horse race in the theatre as the audience watched them race by - one of my favourite scenes of the film. 
It was definitely a spectacle to watch (and one to see in the cinema) - it’s just a shame I didn’t warm to the characters or plot quite as much.

Score: 8.5/10

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