"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Anna Karenina (2013)

So, I finally got around to watching the most recent film incarnation of Anna Karenina, the 2013 version starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadeyn, and Jude Law.  And I must say, with a cast like that, and a screenplay written by Tom Stoppard, I'm more confused why I didn't see it sooner (like, in theaters).

I was supposed to have read the book back in high school, for my AP World Literature class.  And I sort of read it.  It was a summer reading assignment, and as I'm sure most of you are aware, when it comes to summer reading, I read a lot of different things, but rarely what I'm supposed to read.  So, I got through about a fourth of it, went to class, and bull-shitted my way through weeks of discussion and a silly video where I had to play Anna's immature, lying, cheating, but terribly amusing brother Stiva.

I had also watched older versions of the film, but found them, like the book, to be trivial and trite.  I guess my issue was not so much with the presentation of the story, but with the story itself.  I found Anna to be drippy, self-absorbed, and irritating.

Perhaps, at this point, I should give you a bit of the plot?  Anna Karenina is, at it's heart, essentially the story of a virtuous married woman who falls in love with an officer, and finds herself in a landslide to social suicide, ruining the lives and relationships of those around her.  I know it's over-simplifying things, but think soap opera in book form.


So, I guess onward to the review, eh?

I think what I liked most about this movie was the setup.  For the most part, with a few exceptions, the entire movie takes place in a theater, on the stage, in the audience, the wings, even the catwalks above the stage.  It was very cool.  And it gave the whole performance the feeling of a tightly knit drama.  It felt close, and intimate.  And perhaps that's what director Joe Wright, and writer Tom Stoppard were going for.  After all, this is certainly a drama.  And a tragedy at that.  And putting it on a stage, in a theater, makes a spectacle of things.  Anna's affair is there for everyone to see.  And society is watching and judging.

Reconnecting with the story five years after I first experienced it (and last experienced it, as well), I have to say that not much of my personal feelings toward the characters have changed.  I still think Stiva is hilarious.  I feel perhaps, a bit more kindly towards Levin and Dolly, and I don't see Kitty as quite such a silly, ridiculous little girl.  In these three characters, I see the smashed dreams of a damaged romance.  Love has not been kind.  And I see, too, a bit more to Levin than I did five years ago.  Perhaps it was this interpretation of him, but I don't think he's quite so foolish as he came across before.  Now, I see him as someone who is shy, and nervous, and introverted like myself, and who is looking for love and a simple life.  I think I finally "get" him.

And on that note, I think I'm starting to come around to Karenin a bit more.  Before, I saw him as boring, and snobbish.  He seemed demanding and cold, but now, I see that he is perhaps, a bit serious, but at the same time, he's kind and concerned, even though he's a bit less emotional.

And it really amazes me just how different a story can be depending when in your life you first experienced it.  And I never understand people who say that they'll only read a book once.  Every time you read it, you're coming to it from a different perspective.  And if it is truly an enduring work of art, every time you read it, you'll see something new of it.  And I'm more encouraged than ever to reread Anna Karenina, if only to help me see it from a different perspective than I did when I was younger.  I mean, I was 17, had gone to Catholic school all my life, and didn't date.  I didn't really even have any male friends.  And I could not understand the motivations of most of the characters.

The one thing I disliked the most about the film was the tendency to get a bit too up-close and personal for certain scenes.  I'm not at all against a bit of romance, but all the same, I don't want to see a close-up of tongues lolling around between mouths and that sort of thing.  Of course, I know that's how people kiss, but that doesn't mean I want to see it.  After reading Gulp by Mary Roach, I know how digestion works, and I understand that it is perfectly commonplace.  But, that doesn't mean I want to watch you chew.

I had a whole list of notes jotted down on the back of a library receipt, but looking at them now, I feel like they were either just silly jottings, or they went a bit too much into detail.  Comments like those would be better suited for a discussion, not a blog post, so I'm going to hold back on those.  But, if you would like to have a discussion on the film, you know how to reach me.


  1. Got about half-way through the book. Never saw the movie (s). Might though... someday. I've been trying to watch the new 'Gatsby'... it's not doing much for me.

    1. I'm on the waiting list for "Gatsby," but from what I've seen in commercials and such, I'm not sure it's going to be my cup of tea, either.

      Let me know what you think. I might be posting a review when I finish it (in a few months).

  2. Ah, I love this book (and you're spot on when you say it's a soap opera in book form). It's so chock-full of things to talk about. I would love to discuss them :D

    And yeah, the movie changed some things but overall I enjoyed it. The way they chose to present it was quite inventive, and I quite liked it to be honest. I think the ending was what I really had trouble with - they don't show Vronsky's reaction to Anna's choice and I think that's a HUGE deal and to have left that out is mind-boggling to me.


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