3.5 stars: Novel take on classic novel
"Not for everyone" is the sort of damning indictment that can relegate films to the scrap heap, or at least the DVD bin or "I'll see it when it's on TV" list.
Keira Knightley commands the screen in the title role, beautiful, defiant and tragic.
So let’s just say Anna Karenina is a fascinating, wonderful film ... for the right audience. It is immensely creative, entirely cavalier in its story telling decisions and for the most part, simply captivating.
Stylised to the point of polarisation ... Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.
Despite the fact that the film sees Leo Tolstoy’s legendary story passed through the prism of Tom Stoppard’s theatrical mind, it is still surprising, and stunning, to see what has resulted.
"Stylised" doesn’t begin to encapsulate the almost surreal world in which this story is told. Opening with a stage and curtain, many scenes are delivered on two dimensional opera sets, while others occur in the rigging or wings of the theatre, others still within a model railway.
Sets form around the actors during scenes, emphasising the heightened theatricality of the tale but also requiring the audience to work at times to keep up. The costumes and design are simply stunning, rightly nominated for Oscars they must be favourite to win.
Keira Knightley commands the screen in the title role, beautiful, defiant and tragic. The ensemble surrounding her are also excellent, particularly Jude Law who shines in a genuinely different role to his usual fare as Anna's cuckolded husband.
The film is far from faultless. At times it is heavy handed in its symbolism and contrasts, and it struggles to find its finish, but the bravery and imagination utilised in this astounding adaptation far exceeds the faults.
So no, this Anna Karenina won’t be for everyone, but neither is Tolstoy. This is a thoughtful, but surprisingly light interpretation, and one to be seen on the big screen, so that the decision to admire or dismiss may be informed.