“O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day”

The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, Act 1, Scene 3

William Shakespeare

Thank you so much for all the likes, comments and follows I got after my last post! I know I probably didn’t get that many compared with the really popular blogs, but they really made me feel special 🙂

Ok, I would say love-fest over, but this post is going to be about the new movie of ‘Anna Karenina’ starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and that’s all about love and passion! Before I say anything, I have to admit to having never read the book (by Leo Tolstoy in case you don’t know)and so I can’t put any comparisons in this, although I did get some opinions from various people who have seen/read both. Of course, there have been movies before of ‘Anna Karenina’, one of the most famous starring Vivien Leigh.

However, the most unusual thing about the most recent version, directed by Joe Wright, is that it’s set in a theatre and this feature was probably my favourite about the film; the actors almost dance their way through the sets and the stark contrast between the different classes within Tsarist Russia is made very clear. The upper class dance and chat politely on the stage, surrounded by elaborately crafted sets and jewels and wearing fabulously huge ballgowns, whilst the poor watch from above, where the bare boards and loose ropes emphasise how little they have. The fact that all of the society action takes place on the stage also highlights the fact that everyone is playing a part and trying to act how they would want to be seen. The importance of the lower class’ role in society and the disinterest of the upper classes in them is shown by the same people ‘acting’ the parts of both the waiters and the secretaries, moving from one scene to the other, bringing on the props and scenery, wearing basically the same clothes as in the previous scene.

The way that the private scenes between the lovers and those set in the country, among the peasants, were set outside the theatre in the woods or fields, really emphasised the claustrophobia of society and the feeling of liberation and escape felt by Anna when she is with Count Vronsky. What’s amazing is that this use of the theatre wasn’t even planned; the directors and producers simply didn’t have enough money to make the Imperial Russian epic they wanted and to film the scenes in Russia.

Moving on to the characters and actors, I thought Keira Knightley was very good. She does, of course, have exactly the right face for that kind of role, but she wasn’t just pouty or moody like many of the media portray her as. She gave the full range of emotions, although I have to admit, I thought Anna was disgustingly selfish at the end when she killed herself – all I could think of were her children and how she just left them, as well as Count Vronsky. I understand that she was overwhelmed by the claustrophobia and restrictions of the upper class, but if I were her, I would have gone away to the country, away from everyone else, and made new friends there. But then again, maybe I’m looking at it with too much hindsight. Plus, I wouldn’t have got into that situation anyway – I wouldn’t have had the guts to give everything up for love! I guess I have my feet too firmly on the ground?

One character I thought was played brilliantly was Alexei Karenin, by Jude Law. Again, I don’t know if this is how it is in the book, but I loved the fact that he wasn’t a horrible, dictatorial husband; in fact, he was the perfect husband, just not for someone as passionate as Anna. Apparently in some of the past versions, he has been made much more nasty, yet in this film, his character was very understandable, and that made Anna’s actiosn reflect worse upon her. One scene I thought was incredibly touching was his last in the film; he and the two children were sitting in a field, surrounded by flowers and nothing else. You finally felt he had escaped society’s restrictions and rules, yet as the camera drew back, you realised the field was an extension of the stage of the theatre. Now, you can disagree (comment if you want to!), but I read this as society’s grip on him was loosening because of his children, but he had not escaped yet. He was still being watched and judged but from ever increasing distances. And ok, I may be reading too much into that, but I’m an English student; what do you expect?

Another, more minor, character that made the film good for was Matthew Macfadyen as Oblonsky, Anna’s brother. Although on paper he seemed horrible; he cheats on his wife constantly, although she’s had something like 7 children by him, actually I really rather liked him. He provides some much needed humour at points and his excessively choreographed office scenes are amazing. I also thought Kitty and Levin were very well acted by Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson respectively, and their scene with the alphabet blocks was moving, if a bit too long for my taste. I thought Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky was better than I expected, considering how different the character is from the last film I saw him in ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’! However, for me personally, I couldn’t see the overwhelming allure that attracts Anna to him in the first place – I felt he was a little stiff. Saying this, perhaps one could say there aren’t many places to go with Vronsky’s character?

So overall, the movie is well-worth seeing, even if you haven’t read the book and even if it’s just for the scenery and choreographed feel of the theatrical interpretation of Russian society. I wouldn’t give it five stars, simply because it was quite long, and parts of it felt stretched out unnecessarily. However, I think I’ll have to read the book to see how closely it tallys.

Thanks again for the comments, likes and follows after my last post! Coming up soon… well, I’m going to see ‘King Lear’ starring Jonathan Pryce at the Almeida theatre tomorrow evening, so I’ll be comparing that to the Theatre-in-the-Forest version I saw earlier this year, which I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. See you then!

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