Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published February 11th 2013
Despite countless adaptations, its been almost 80 years since Anna Karenina has been brought to the screen with favourable results. Acclaimed Brit director Joe Wright tries to address the balance with a bold approach to the material.
His Karenina is a highly stylised rendering - literally theatrical, with curtains rising, ropes and pulleys being worked from the wings and footlights clearly visible in many scenes. It adds to the lavish spectacle, but also creates an emotional distance from the audience, which is problematic given that the titular character is already hard to have any sympathy for.
Infidelity is one thing, but as played by Keira Knightley and directed by Wright, the latest screen Karenina comes across as impetuous, inconsiderate and selfish, while her cuckolded husband is given more sympathetic treatment than in previous versions.
There are moments of great beauty, but this is dramatically an unsatisfying experience, with little chemistry between Knightley and Taylor-Johnson. The subsidiary characters actually hold more interest than the leads.
It's a brave attempt by Wright, who has given us great adaptations in the past with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, but perhaps Tolstoy's 1870s morality tale needs an even greater re-imagining to resonate with today's audiences.