Anna Karenina

3 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
(14user reviews)
Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina
Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

Many people won’t have noticed that Joe Wright has directed two films since ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (2005) and ‘Atonement’ (2007). His LA-set biopic of a homeless cellist, ‘The Soloist’ (2009), was as sparsely attended as its title implies. More saw ‘Hanna’ (2011), a startling chase thriller starring Saoirse Ronan (essentially playing Jason Bourne’s kid sister), but they might not have recognised it as the work of a man whose greatest career accolades have come from putting Keira Knightley in lovely period frocks.

On the surface, his latest outing, another adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s oft-filmed doorstop, might seem a retreat to the tried-and-true. Knightley’s back. So – and how – are the frocks. But this playfully heightened, sporadically glorious ‘Anna Karenina’ seems to have picked up more from its heroine’s near-namesake Hanna than you might expect – with Wright kicking the fizzy stylisation of his last film up several notches, into territory that recalls Baz Luhrmann (the film even opens on a set of red velvet stage curtains, perhaps not an accidental nod to Luhrmann’s theatrical trilogy: ‘Strictly Ballroom’, ‘Romeo + Juliet’ and ‘Moulin Rouge!’). 

The pop songs have been kept at bay by Dario Marianelli’s lush score, but Wright’s chief postmodern gambit here is setting Tolstoy’s epic Russian romance – horse races, frozen lakes and all – almost entirely within the confines of a theatre, the characters oblivious to their new context as they emote around stage hands and pulleys. It’s a bravely disorientating move, the play-within-a-film providing an effective metaphor for the inescapable gaze of Moscow high society as Anna rebuffs her stodgy husband (Jude Law) for the studlier attentions of cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). There’s much sensual pleasure, too, to be had in watching Wright negotiate the logistics of his staging: visually, it’s his most exquisitely designed film yet, and Knightley, resplendent in exaggerated furs and art-directed lace veils, has never looked more like an honest-to-goodness movie star.

But, as Anna herself learns, all this beauty comes at a price, and while Wright’s ornate contraption dazzles on a scene-to-scene basis, it never really moves us: the passion between Anna and Taylor-Johnson’s mannered Vronsky is smothered by the scenery, while Tom Stoppard’s adaptation fails to forge the emotional connection between their story and the purer parallel romance of Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (the wonderful Alicia Vikander). It’s as if Wright has lavished so much energy on reframing the familiar narrative that the story itself has become secondary: everyone may be inside the theatre in this impressive film, but a Russian chill has crept in anyway.


Release details

Release date:
Friday September 7 2012
130 mins

Cast and crew

Joe Wright
Tom Stoppard
Keira Knightley
Matthew Macfadyen
Jude Law

Average User Rating

2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:8
2 people listening
1 of 1 found helpful

The book was and still is the greatest, but the movie was pure disappointment. Keira Knightley was not the right person to play Anna Karenina, even more Aaron Taylor-Johnson was not the person to play Vronsky. I was so anxious to go to see the movie and so disappointed at the end of the movie. This movie should be prohibited from showing, since is the worst presentation of the fantastic book. Leo Tolstoy is one of the greatest writers and unfortunately, so far, there are no movie directors who could of capture on the film the beauty and the depth of this book, the luxury of the epoque, splendour of the castle life and specific society group at that epoque in Russia. Even more different, deep feelings and straggles of each and every character are lucking in this movie. Huge disappointment.

1 of 1 found helpful

The book was great, but the movie was such a disappointing. Also Keira Knightley was not the right person to play Anna Karenina, It was very confusing, was it drama? fiction? romance? theater?comedy? musical? Very sad, that this movie ruined the reputation of the book, which is one of the best books I have read.

Joe Wright's films are so hit and miss I put off seeing this until it was released on DVD but its actually his second best film after Pride and Prejudice. Trouble is the film is ruined by the woeful miscasting of the Aaron Taylor-Johnson. You can't help but wonder if they screen-tested Keira and him together at all because they have zero chemistry and his ridiculous facial hair just draws attention to his incredibly blank acting. But apart from that its a fine cast, keira looks as naturally beautiful as ever and I liked the Baz Luhrmann-esque visual inventiveness.

This movie gave me a headache. It was the cheorography, I suppose. There was just too much movement almost all the time, in the theatre and then out of the theatre, which I am not used to. On the other hand, as a great lover of *British* (in this case Russian but it is still British-made), I was moved by the story itself. Jude Law was good, Aaron Taylor-Johnson looked very dashing indeed but he was obviously far too young for this particular role. Kiera Knightley was, well, Kiera Knighley, just like in most of her movies up to now. Ruth Wilson was awesome though: what an actress! Great locations too!!!

A very disapppointing film. It's like a French style comic book illustration of Tolstoy's great novel. It crams nearly all the incidents of the book into a two hour film but treats them superficially. It is artificial and completely lacking in emotion. KN may look pretty but she's not right for Anna - much too shallow - and Vronsky is a disaster.

Had not read the book and went with an open mind and really enjoyed the film, story and settings. A creative use of a theatre around which the story is told and given the constraints of cinema a good job has been done here with a limited budget. I am sure readers of Tolstoy have clear mental maps of the story and characters but for the rest of us I found KN did a believable interpretation of the story. At times my daughter and I slipped in Harry Potter character spotting, but overall recommended for those who like costume dramas.

Just amazing!!! Fantastic acting, music. I did enjoy the film. Not sure about count Vronsky. His hair really strange.

The film was quite good and gave a nice twist to a well known story by placing it in the context of a theatre. By implication it seemed to be saying that Anna could have an affair but the idea of divorce and not going back to her husband was breaking the conventions accepted by members of the szarist upperclasses. However I agree with the other comments made setting it in a theatre over rode any considerations of making the characterisation more powerrful and less excessively symbolic. From what I have read of Tolstoy he did seriously believe in the virtues of concentrated hard work and also in some senses marriage although his creutzers sonata is not repesentative of the last attitude.

A poor film that rushes through hundreds of pages of the novel with no explanation. People appear and disappear with no reference to why they may be relevant, or not. Knightley gives her one look of depair / shame/ hut and she is just wrong as Anna and don't even get me started on Johnson who has all the depth of a puddle. A literary great reduced almost to Mills and Boon standards. If you want to see how an epic russian novel should be filmed go see Doctor Zhivago not this.

carol -i like both weisz and portman -black swan is the last hollywood movie that was as original take and portman gave it a schizoid character but i still think that to compete with garbo.s interpretation is rather impossible for these actresses as they lack angst -the essential element for the bundle of nerve that anna is -i think vanessa was great in atonement in the last few scenes -THIS IS SO BAD I actually put a status on FB saying kk should be droned by obama for this horror -i do agree with the bits about vronsky looking gay -he was a raging screaming queen .lol i was appalled -BEL AMI was terrible but the book is not as gr8 as AK but even BA was a blasphemy -they need to really start to assess themselves i find oscar winners very mediocre these days compared to cabaret ,godfather and deer hunter -these movies today are almost like made by film students or worst by teenagers who have not seen any cinema prior to 2000 .

dear ulk atonement was saved by james mcevoy and other excellent female actors alas poor ak was only seen as a "clotheshorse"for ms knightly and one wonders one really does on her actual mentality and understanding of this amazing detalied and profound and indeed cautionary book i can only express my dsibelief that they did not ask rachael weisz(oscar winner) but am sure she wouldve jumped at the chance or natalie portman(best actress oscar winner) who both wouldve have made remarkable annas!!one wonders who casts these things and obviously they know nothing about the book anna or previous films quie an outrage i think

gretagarbo will be so pleased to see her great act has just seen modern day cinema make itself into a mockery -KK and JW an CH have proven ATONEMENT was a fluke and they are pitifully mediocre like all else today -

one of the best novels ever written and the guy tries to turn it into the dreadful moulin rouge without music th character of anna karenina is exquisitely described and embroidered by tolstoy i went to see it against by better judgement and this is a dreadful film ms knightlley cannot act she slightly wiggles her chin and that seems to be her emotional response to everything she had more jewellery on than the russian czarina and at one point a floor lenght pure ermine coat!!!not a hair out of place eeven when near death!!!!why did the director make this film?why use this actress?what about natalie portman or rachael weisz!?and vronsky ?he looked gay and so what i knw but count vronsky was no gay!!and his hair and clothes only added to this allusion ms knightley cannot act and for some reason is always showing off her back lovely yes but why?!?to deteact form her complete lack of any bust and this rouse is used in all her films and is annoying dont waste your money just read te wonderful book by tolstoy and watch vivienne leigh or garbo as anna for this terrible actress makes her look silly and spoilt which when you read the book you will find out she is not

I should have read the review, I was expecting wonderful scenery, not a film situated mainly in a theatre. My fault, I shall Know what to do next time! I did enjoy the film though.