Anna Karenina (2012)

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Written by Tom Stoppard from the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Directed by Joe Wright.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Set in late-19th-century Russia high society, the aristocratic Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky, sacrificing and abandoning everything in order to be with her “true love.”

PREVIEW REVIEW: I’m sorry, but it’s hard to like this chick, no matter how many adaptations of her I’ve seen. I can understand someone slipping and having an affair (I said I understand, I don’t condone it or respect it), but this woman is willing to give up her child, embarrass and forsake her husband who had forgiven her, goes to live with this other man despite the fact that it will ruin both their lives socially, as well as his military career, all because of a sexual passion that comes across more as an uncontrollable obsession. Her forbidden romance causes her to behave more like she’s hooked on a narcotic than true love. And by film’s end she is so wrapped up in her own self that she commits suicide by throwing herself before a train, leaving two children motherless. She’s a selfish woman. And Count Vronsky is a dog.

Many a film has given us a portrait of an adulterous affair (Brief Encounter comes to mind), where the leads eventually do what’s right for others, sublimating their own desires. In those films, we sense their desire and come to care for them as they are ultimately people of character. As those films end, we feel the hole left in protagonist’s heart, but know that it will heal. Whereas Anna’s self-inflicted doom will never completely heal within those she has left behind.

Now, as to the movie. Though the set and art direction are impressive, the use of a stage that transitions one scene into another is distracting. I’ve seen this technique of combining stage and cinema effectively used in films past, but here the gimmick, though presumably meant as some sort of metaphor for how Anna feels about her life being on a stage, or perhaps used by the filmmaker to quicken the pace (the novel was 800 pages), nonetheless the stagy effect left me cold. And speaking of being left cold…

Though every production value is detailed with a polished, lavish look, the story and characters left me unmoved. I did find the sub-story of an everyday field worker in love with an uptown girl of more interest, as they both developed a caring, giving character. But I found the central plot and major players difficult to warm to. This indifference includes the poor husband who reveals himself to be a Christian, a good man, even to the point of forgiving the narcissistic Anna and in the end raising her child by another man. Jude Law has one expression throughout and only manages to express a detached persona. Nor did I feel any real passion exuding from Ms. Knightly or from the actor playing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who registers a kind of wimpish, spoiled, self-indulgent mamma’s boy on camera. Why Anna is drawn to him is not clear, as the actor lacks any discernible charisma.

DVD Alternatives: Pride and Prejudice and

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Focus Features

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: We see a dead man cut in half – literally – it’s brief but gross; a woman commits suicide by falling in front of a train; horse injured during a race and then shot. Some blood.

Sex: Four brief sex scenes.

Nudity: Brief nudity as we see the couple sleeping, their bodies intertwined.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking.

Other: The husband tells his wife, hoping she will reconsider her affair, “We are bound together by God; to break it is a crime against God.” Wow. That’s how some people in Russia looked upon the Creator until He got kicked out of the country by the majority ‘cause He wasn’t a communist.

Running Time: 130 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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