Let me begin by explaining that I am not a big Keira Knightly fan, and yet I seem to LOVE the movies she is in. I get it, she's British, she's gorgeous, she's cheeky... there's just something about her that irritates me. HOWEVER... apparently when paired with a classic storyline, a BRILLIANT director and the most fabulous sets/costumes in... ever... she's a winner!
It's no secret that I am a sucker for great packaging and I will sit through multiple viewings of really tedious films to take a closer look at hairstyles, corsetry and set design. There is no question that Anna Karenina is opulent and extravagant in it's gilded and carved props and backdrops, but since we have now "been there, done that" a few times too many for that to be a draw in 2013, this film relies on an ingenious use of motion through the sets and scenes that is at once fluid and fractured to create a visually innovative masterpiece. Sets are manipulated on screen the way a theatrical play would be on a stage but with the actors moving through the sets as well as through the scenes.
As a Russian socialite in pre-Bolshevik Moscow, Anna travels to visit her philandering brother in an attempt to explain to her sister-in-law that it is in the woman's best interest to let him have his cake and eat it too while she cares for the brood. In one of those cinema norm string of coincidences, she meets the fabulously moustached Count Vronsky, who is near as well dressed as she is and almost as cocky. The two fall head over fur lined boots in love with the first glance and so begins the ruining of Anna.
The IMPORTANT part of this film is the return of the veiled hat, train travel, creative ballroom dancing and blue silk wallpaper. I'm not kidding, the tragedy of the storyline, the intensity of the passion... all well and good, but the choreography! It's gorgeous. And the blue room where Anna eventually loses her sanity, that alone is worth whatever they paid to have the film produced. Also I am taking up Ice Sledging.
Anna Karenina isn't a new tale, but in the light of our fairly recent fascination of over the top grandeur and bolts of silk a la The Duchess, Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette et al... the way this movie was filmed is what sets it high above the rest of the aristocracy. Joe Wright isn't a name that I am overly familiar with, but surprisingly the man of the house knew immediately who he was, based on his direction of Hannah, which was equally refreshing, albeit a genre as far from opulence as one is likely to get. So I suppose it's fair to say I dig this guy's style. In 2007 he became the youngest director in history to have a film open the Venice Film Festival with Atonement. There also seems to be rather an obvious link between Wright and Knightly... which is sort of ironic.