Anna Karenina – 2/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

annaAnna Karenina – 2/5 – This is going to be a review for a movie that came out last year, and I got the chance to watch it on blu-ray.  Before going into this movie, I knew what I was expecting; a film filled with the ideals of love, surrounding a scenario that would introduce play style elements and melodramatic characters.  From beginning to end, the expectations that I had of the film were true.  This film had a lot of aspect of theater.  Even for this, that was only the tip of the iceberg.  Overall, Anna Karenina is a movie that shines a light on an age old concept, but just doesn’t produce enough arousing fulfillment to make the film worthy of a general audience viewing.

Premise: It is 1874 in the Imperial Russia, and the aristocratic Anna Karenina travels from Saint Petersburg to Moscow to save the marriage of her brother Prince Oblonsky.  Anna Karenina believes because of her strong marriage, she can provide enough ammo to sway her brother to do the right thing.  While in Moscow, Anna meets the cavalry officer Count Vronsky at the train station.  A subtle attraction begins to blossom between the two.  Caught in this web is a Kitty, who is expect a proposal from Vronsky instead of accept one from someone who truly loves her, Levin.  Everything changes when Anna Karenina and Vronsky dance at the ball. Soon, the ideas of love and faith are tested, and what happens is both a blessing and a curse for all parties involved.

There are many characters in this film, but I’m going to focus on the main ones in this description.  In a typecast role, Kiera Knightley plays the titular character, Anna Karenina.  The reason I say typecast is because Knightley is known for playing these kinds of roles (The Duchess, Atonement, Prides and Prejudice, etc.).  Even if she plays the same kind of role, she does well in providing suave and physical attraction to era style woman characters.  Along with the attire of big dresses and a influence of an imperialistic society (Russia), Keira helps us get lost in her role of Anna, as she provides someone who is caught by dreams, lust and aspiration, even if she is blinded by things outside of real conviction.  Even though she provides decent acting and an allure of a cunning, spiteful woman, this character is way too obvious for the audience, and every habit she express is one we’ve seen over and over again.  There isn’t anything you haven’t seen from other movies, and the repetitiveness of the melodrama becomes mundane.  Opposite her in this movie is both the husband Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) and cavalry officer she has an affair with, Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  Jude Law does a good job in playing a husband who is astute, work oriented but faithful.  In providing this stern individual, it helps create a rod for ignorance, as well as add to the friction between him and his wife Anna.  Within this friction, it causes some emotional depth for his character, showing how the affair has a traumatic effect on his life as a public servant.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson does an even better job as Vronsky, the calvary officer who seems to be even more lost in a dream then Anna.  I believe this to be a real standout role for Aaron, who most will know as the boy who plays Kick-Ass.  In this film, he provides a guy who is lost in angst and innocence, living for the lust of the moment than an objective path for his life.  You watch as the intellect of Vronsky gets overridden by emotions when he sets sights upon Anna.  This helps develop a deep character for Vronsky, as his interaction or emotional commanding with Anna, making all the moments more endearing, even if they are wrong.  The contrast between the love affair and Anna’s marriage causes a decent parallel for a prop and con’s for love, but it is also underwhelming when the chemistry between him and Knightly seems disjointed when one side is wooden and the other feels real.  Outside of these three, you have many supporting characters on each side.  Even with the lack of character development for the supporting cast, they help provide subtle depth in their own individual roles, fleshing out the triangle of love created.  The one standout from the supporting characters is the underling secondary story of love, between Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and Levin (Domhnall Gleeson).  These characters seem more genuine because of the better interactions, but because it’s a supporting story, it becomes undervalued, causing a ‘don’t care’ mentality for their story.

The direction of this film is drawn from the realm of theatrics.  When we are introduced into this world of Russia, we are introduced through the visuals of a ‘theater play’, bringing forth all the main characters.  Anna is shown to have a solace kind of life, but you can tell she wants something more.  When she travels to Moscow to save her brother’s marriage, she subsequently runs into a charming but intriguing young man, Vronsky.  From this point, we are seen (through the theater aspect) the ideals of love through the main story (Anna vs Marriage & Affair) and the secondary story (true love).  The levels of love seem to take the forefront, giving the audience a glimpse at how one emotional string can lead into layers and layers of aftermath effects for their families and friends.  You realize that this is more than just about love, but how a single emotional that causes harmony can also cause strife.  What you see is a line drawn between the reality of hearts and the proof of consequence.  These ideals would have been great, but the director (Joe Wright) doesn’t let these themes develop any strength, because there is a very lacking of character development.  What you get are characters that are left to recite lines off paper, as the movie is drowned out by the the melodrama, theater props and resonating score.  All these movie effects used to produce something emotional only make the characters become props themselves, moving scenes together linked by a linear cliched plot.  This causes the audience to stare endlessly, wanting the movie to end, as time length becomes an issue, and all the gripping sensations that should have kept the film grounded becomes dull and tiring.  By the time you hit the second and third act; you lose complete interest in the overall main story and are intrigued by the secondary story between true love of Kitty and Levin.  This part of the movie felt authentic enough, even for the short screen time it had, as it does enough to help compliment, through contrast, to the main story of broken marriages and love affairs.  In the end, you feel as if the director did a terrible job of linking meaning because of a lack of character development and story progression, and glad the film ends.

The one great aspect of the film is the set pieces.  Being ‘theater’ themed, everything is set to the backdrop of a common theater, through the use of stage props and revolving sets for each act of the film.  The colors and structures used to create the cities of Russia, buildings, ballrooms and clothing of the era felt real enough, that you feel as if you’re a part of the era.  The score is both a boost and hindrance.  As mentioned above, with so much reliance on the emotional affect of the music, it drowns out any kind of character development.  Even for this, it also keeps you encapsulated, drawing you into the sensations, even if their over the top.

Overall, Anna Karenina is a film that had a chance to being a real gem, but falls flat because of the directional aspect and overuse of common movie techniques instead of bringing balance between those variables.  To me, this felt like a poor man’s version of Pride and Prejudice and Les Miserable.  If you’re a fan of the director (Joe Wright) or Kiera Knghtley, you can take a chance on this.  If you’re not into drama or theater, you will be disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *