Saturday, 22 September 2012


Full disclosure - I've never read the book of Anna Karenina. I've owned a copy for at least a couple of years, and I've never once in that time actually been tempted to pick it up and start reading. Possibly because of the boring cover, but more likely because it's one of those books that you're supposed to read before you die. You know, like War and Peace and 1984 and something by Charles Dickens. I don't like reading books that I'm supposed to like, classics or even more modern stuff because I'm bound to hate it just because I'm supposed to love it.

But I digress. Earlier in the week, I saw the new film adaptation of Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and a whole host of other British actors that will have you (if you're anything like me) going "Oh, I didn't know so-and-so was in it" all the way through. Seriously, creepy Alice from Luther, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, Bill Weasley from Harry Potter...the list goes on and on. It might seem weird to you that all these Russian characters are being played by Brits, and during the film it bothered me a little that they were all so very clearly English with the crisp accents to match. However, I've decided that it would have been more distracting if they were all putting on bad Russian accents.

Speaking of distracting, the whole thing is like a stage production. Sets change in the backgrounds, office workers become restaurant waiters by removing their smart jackets to reveal aprons, doors lead from inside a private house to a public ballroom. It's very strange, and at first I found it really distracting, but actually it worked really well. It gave the film a very unique feel, it was like nothing I'd seen before, which was unusual considering it's a classic story full of characters that we're familiar with even if we don't realise it. Of course, the staging of it all and the theatre aspect is a metaphor for how these people live, but even without that layer, it's very nice to look at.

It's also quite comedic in places, which I really didn't expect. I was expecting the usual grim period drama with pretty dresses, (not criticising - I love that stuff) but it was so much more than that. It's a lot faster paced than you might expect from a period piece, there's quite a lot of humour and it's really very engaging. I've been watching the BBC adaptation of Parade's End recently, and at times I've struggled to follow what's actually happening, but had no such trouble with Anna Karenina.

If you don't like period films or dramas, it's probably safe to say that this film isn't for you. If you do, however, I think you should definitely try to see it. It's a stunning film, and even if you're so familiar with the story that you don't think you could bear to sit through another adaptation, go anyway. The whole way of presenting it is so unlike anything I've seen before that I think it's definitely worth a look. I do stand by my assertion that it should have come out at Christmas, though.

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