Anna Karenina (2012): “Romantic love will be the last delusion of the old order.”

anna_karenina_xlgBased on one of my favourite books of all time, by the magnificent Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (2012) is a tragic story about love and lust, society, marriage, loyalty, and the conflict between traditional and modern Russian values. It centres on the titular character Anna (Keira Knightley), who is in a stable but monotonous relationship with her husband, the Count Alexei Karenin (Jude Law). Anna finds herself becoming attracted to the young Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), with whom she begins a passionate affair; an affair which will change her life forever.

I watched this film halfway through a seven-ish hour flight from London to Singapore. I honestly can’t remember much about the actors, and whether their portrayal of the characters were effective or convincing. I was so knocked out by being on planes for most of the day that I just sat in my cramped economy-class seat and let the beautiful images of this film take control of my brain. I’ve been planning to make a post about this film that highlights the simply amazing cinematography, so, here goes.

The aesthetics of this film are simply gorgeous. Its palette consists of rich, jewel-tone colours, with an emphasis on sumptuous reds and golds that symbolise the strength of the Russian empire. The film is structured around a stage, as if the characters’ (particularly Anna’s) actions are acted out publicly for an audience to see, and to judge. The film is quite heavy on the stage analogy during the beginning of the film, but this eases into the middle and is revived by the end; so the analogy doesn’t get too stale over time.

Every frame of Anna Karenina is constructed beautifully. The film is like a moving work of art. The characters move together as if they’re dancing, and each scene seems to be choreographed to look as elegant and effortless as possible. It is actually a joy to watch, if not for the actors, but for the construction of the film as a whole. I remember feeling that the aesthetics of the film slightly distracted from the story, which could be a valid criticism of the film; or, it could just have been my jetlag preemptively setting in.

As in my previous posts, I’ve shuffled these images around so as not to spoil the entire film. Let me know if you’ve seen this one, and which shots/images are your favourites!

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Film rating: 2/5
Cinematography rating: 4.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

All images sourced from Kissthemgoodbye.net.

17 comments

  1. Not massively into period stuff but I like the idea of this being set on stage.

    1. Yeah, the stage analogy worked well for this story, I think. It’s not set on a stage the whole time but stage elements are a motif throughout. It’s a very visually interesting film!

  2. Definitely beautiful, this one. Deserved its Cinematography nomination. No doubt.

    But the story is rubbish. As is the choice to cast British actors, have them speak in British accents, but preserve the Russian names and setting. Needless to say, despite the film’s beauty, I was underwhelmed.

    1. That’s the problem, I’ve never seen a really good movie adaptation of Anna Karenina. I wonder whether the story and character development would suit a mini series format better. It’s a huge book, there’s definitely enough to sustain more than a movie-length’s worth of content. This was a good one to shut the brain off mid-flight and engage in some beautiful cinematography though, for sure.

      1. You might be right on this one needing a mini-series format.

        I haven’t read the book, but I know I didn’t care about the characters in this adaptation. I assumed that’s primarily what the movie lost – quality character development.

  3. I’m a big fan of Android Karenina : )

    1. Haha! Now that would be a great book-to-film translation, I’m sure of it.

  4. The film indeed looks beautiful but I thought it failed as adaptation. Knightley lacked maturity and understanding to play that character, I think the film would work better with older and more experienced actors.

    1. Shame that they can’t do another remake with different actors so soon. I just want to see this amazing book represented authentically on film!

      1. The version with Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean was pretty good, in terms of adaptation much better than this one.

  5. What a stunning looking film!

    1. It sure is! And it looks even better in motion. I watched it on a tiny airplane screen so I can only imagine how amazing it would have been in the cinema.

  6. The production values and cinematography were absolutely incredible here.
    The most impressive scene of the film is set at a ballroom where Anna and Vronsky dance together. The dancing itself is beautifully choreographed and classes as an engaging piece of art.

    1. I totally agree. Beautiful film. I wish I’d seen it on a big screen rather than a tiny airplane television, but even in such a small format the film looked incredible.

  7. As someone who lives in a country halfway made up of Russians and speaks the language and loves Tolstoy’s book, I was really disappointed with it being so unauthentic. It was gorgeous, yes, cinematography was spot–on, but as Sati said, it failed as an adaption. I did really love Jude Law’s work here, though. Your picture selection is gorgeous, too!

    1. Thanks! I love the book too, and hearing your perspective on the film! 🙂 I hope to eventually see the Russian adaptation of the film from 1967 to see how it stacks up in comparison. I’ve only ever seen English language film versions and felt a bit disappointed.

  8. […] cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey who worked on another beautifully shot yet quite flawed film, Anna Karenina (2012), as well as Godzilla (2014), The Avengers (2012), and Atonement (2007). Every scene, even the […]

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