Anna Karenina (2012)

Anna Karenina
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Tom Stoppard
Based on: Leo Tolstoy‘s novel (which I wrote about very shortly here)
Cast: Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Ruth Wilson, Olivia Williams, Holliday Grainger, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery, Steve Evets, Bill Skarsgard

Anna (Keira Knightley) has been married to Alexei Karenin (Jude Law) for quite a while. It’s a marriage of convenience, but one that works quite well. Anna gives all her love to their son and seems content. That is, until she travels to Moscow to reconcile her brother Stiva (Matthew Macfadyen) with his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald) on whom he cheated. In Moscow, Anna meets Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Johnson), a young count who had been courting Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander), more or less seriously. Anna and Vronsky feel drawn to each other immediately – so much so that Anna basically flees back to St. Petersburg. But Vronsky follows her there, kicking off events that slowly spiral Anna’s life completely out of control.

The movie started and I immediately and irrevocably fell in love with it. And it didn’t disappoint me for one moment. It is a thing of beauty that I could watch over and over again.


Joe Wright, Tom Stoppard’s script, the production design and the costumes – it all comes together to create something special and absolutely extraordinary. I loved how they used the theater and how they incorporated the backstage area and the scene changes into the actual film. It made me itch to look at the entire film from a more theoretical standpoint. But mostly it made me gasp because PRETTY!

And I just have to give extra credit to Stoppard’s script. He boiled this enormous book down to its essentials and didn’t lose anything (at least from what I remember. Though admittedly it’s been years since I read the book and I don’t remember that much).


But also apart from the visuals, the movie was impressive as hell. The cast was amazing and I didn’t even mind Keira Knightly that much (she’ll probably never be the world’s best actress but she works very well with Joe Wright and he gets the best from her, even if her Anna is maybe a little too whiny for my taste). Aaron Johnson was brilliant, as usual. Jude Law managed to be actually unattractive and stern, quite an achievement for him. Domhnall Gleeson is really building himself up, too. And the British Actor Bingo going on in the background was extremely satisfying.

And last but not least, I loved how they incorporated the sounds of the film scenes into the soundtrack. I already loved that in Atonement (with the typewriter) and it works brilliantly here, too. Hats off, Dario Marianelli, and of course the sound team.


Summarising: I loved it so much, I actually want to re-read the book now.


    • He was really good, but it was only a comparatively small part, actually. The make-up made him seem much older (they gave him a really bad bald spot), which made him admittedly less attractive. But he managed to show both of Karenin’s sides: the stern, unforgiving man who sticks to the rules all the time, but also the insecurity that lies below that firmness, his belief that he’s doing the right thing, even though it hurts him, Anna and his son, which he never meant to happen but he doesn’t know the way out.

      Really, like with Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, people tend to forget that there’s an excellent actor beneath the pretty exterior with Jude Law and a role like this (where he isn’t pretty) just makes it obvious.

      • I completely agree with you concerning the great acting qualities of these three pretty men.

        And I think this petty-man-of-priniciple role is just perfect for a skilled actor. I really love Jude Law. I think he is so shiny in supporting roles (Don’t know if it makes sense… I see him for 5min and remember his performance better than the actual plot :P.)

  1. I don’t remember if this is supported by the text – it’s been AGES since I read it and I really don’t think I’d want to again- but I had somehow thought of Anna as far more…. “normal”, i.e. middle class wife/matronly than I think Keira Knightley could possibly be.

    • Well, I do believe that it says in the book that Anna is extremely pretty. And she’s only 18 when she gets married and 25 or 26 when she meets Vronsky, so that fits.
      But she certainly was higher class and very much in love with her son, so if that’s what you mean…
      I dunno. I’m not a huge fan of Keira Knightley, but I thought she was okay in the role.

  2. Also when i first heard about this movie I totally thought Jude law would be Vronsky. Can’t quite see him as Karenin, either. How is he less attractive than Aaron Johnson? :)

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