Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 8 February 2013
Anna Karenina, Movie Review, Universal Pictures ***1/2
Movie review Anna Karenina, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy Directed by Joe Wright Screenplay by Tom Stoppard
I reviewed this movie at a Media Preview provided by Universal Pictures. This review is not for the Herald Sun. KH
Joe Wright’s production of Anna Karenina is
sumptuous and exotic, filling every frame with vivid colour and painstaking
period detail evoking Imperial Russia in 1874.
Tom Stoppard’s inspired adaptation of
Tolstoy’s renowned, romantic but tragic novel, draws on his background as a
writer of stage plays by stylising and theatricalising the dramatic narrative.
Scenes begin as theatrical episodes set on
a 19th century, proscenium arch stage and, between scenes,
characters stroll along the precarious, wooden gantries above the stage, echoing
the artifice and deception of the aristocratic society of Moscow and St.
The scenery is composed of painted
backdrops and theatrical props, and dancers populate ballrooms and inns alike
with complex choreography or frozen, stylised tableaux.
These artificial scenes bleed into
realistic, elaborate interiors of the cities and the frozen landscapes of the
Russian countryside with bold invention.
With Sarah Greenwood’s luscious production
design and Stoppard’s imaginative script, Joe Wright creates a visual feast.
The major problem with Jo Wright’s
direction is that the intense emotion of Tolstoy’s novel is diluted so that we
skate across the surface of the anguish and despair that should leave us
weeping at Anna’s final demise.
Keira Knightley has a fine featured,
delicate beauty of Karenina, but she is acting by numbers, her expressions and
exclamations being contrived and mechanical and, ultimately, predictable and
annoying. One can’t help but crave the subtlety of the young Francesca Annis in
the BBC version.
Jude Law is Anna’s stoical, repressed but intensely
loyal husband, Alexei Karenin and his portrayal of this staid man’s loss of
faith is surprising and subtle. Of course, in his youth, Law might have played
the young love interest.
However, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as her vain lover,
Count Vronsky, is marvellously pretty, sultry, narcissistic and maddeningly
ignorant of the social and personal disaster that he visits upon his conquest,
Matthew MacFadyen is charming and
cheerfully brash and brazen as Anna’s brother, Stiva, whose sexual appetites
for pretty, young things unjustly do not cause him the fatal trouble that are
caused by Anna’s one affair.
Despite its emotional limitations, this
cunningly wrought film injects new energy, visual delights and unquestionable
imagination into Tolstoy’s story of love, lust, prejudice sexism and betrayal.