Out of all the genres in cinema, adaptations of period novels terrify me the most. However, the prospect of sitting through another dull 19th century “forbidden fruit” romance was offset by Anna Karenina’s eye-candy…and just like a greedy child, I walked away with a tooth ache and little else.
Anna Karenina, the wife of a late 19th century Russian aristocrat, finds herself hopelessly entangled in a sordid love affair with the charming Count Vronsky.
Anna Karenina is a case of style over substance and fans of stylistic musicals such as Moulin Rouge and novel adaptations in line with Pride and Prejudice will take away the most from the film.
The Bottom Line
From the first scene, it’s clear as day that there is something a little different about Anna Karenina. A special emphasis is placed on the idea that the film is only a film by medium but not by nature as this adaptation generously shows the nuts an bolts of the backstage of a grand theatrical production. The effects of seeing actors waiting in the wings and backdrop operators heaving on thick, pulley-hinged twine is a novel spectacle. But as with all novelties, the gimmick grows tired quickly, easily withdrawing the audience from the action when a little more integration into the plot would have been far more effective. Anna Karenina is a visual marvel and will wow throughout with it’s genius cinematography and attention to historic detail, and from this perspective alone, the latest from Joe Wright is a success.
So why a negative rating then? Simply put, the film drowns under its visual grandeur. With a running time in excess of 2 hours and a repetitively inane plot that is hopelessly miscast, Karenina is a high caloric, overly self-indulgent showcase of high budget deception that is as phony as the tacked on theatrical masquerade that so frequently cuts into the film.