ANNA KARENINA Blu-ray Review

     March 21, 2013

anna-karenina-blu-ray-slice

Tackling a seminal work of fiction always presents a filmmaker with a unique set of challenges, even more so than book adaptations in general.  For director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard on Anna Karenina, those included not only condensing a mammoth book into a slightly over two-hour movie but doing so in a manner that stood out from the numerous previous adaptations.  The result is a mixed bag with many parts to love individually but a whole that simply falls short. 

keira-knightley-anna-kareninaAnna Karenina stars Keira Knightley in the titular role.  On a trip to Moscow to help her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) save his marriage–failing from his own marital indiscretions–Anna attracts the attentions of Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  Fearful of her own attraction to him, Anna returns home to her husband (Jude Law) in St. Petersburg only to have Vronsky follow her.  It is only a matter of time before Anna caves in to Vronsky’s advances and her own passions, with tragic consequences.

Anna Karenina is a heavily stylized film, and while said style is quite visually intriguing (if not downright beautiful) it alas hinders the story.  Although not a film about or of a play–a point that should be emphasized–the majority of the picture takes place inside a theatre, not just on the stage, but backstage and in the auditorium.  Likewise, the action is quite theatrical and the movement of sets and between sets beautifully fluid and kinetic.  The acting, script and cinematography still being traditionally cinematic, what results is almost a theatre/movie hybrid.

anna-karenina-Keira-KnightleyThe idea behind placing the action in this theatre setting is that the location ties in symbolically to the lies and artifice of the characters.  What place is more artificial than the theatre?  Those few sequences not shot within the greater theatre environs contrastingly take place outdoors in the country, representative of freedom, openness, life

Anna Karenina becomes a case of director Wright favoring style over substance, with the unfortunate side effect that the style makes it very difficult to maintain a sense of place and time.  Coupled with Stoppard’s overly quick moving script, the film feels “fluidly disjointed,” to coin a term.  To be fair, the novel is an epic work to be so heavily condensed, but even so the screenplay has other flaws, most notably the dialogue feeling completely our of place with the story and style.  On the plus side, the production and costume design are stunning, the cinematography complex, and the actors–particularly Knightley–perform admirably.

Sound and picture of this Blu-ray stand out amongst what is otherwise a fairly standard release.  The transfer truly captures the beauty of the production design, while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 captures every tiny detail of the intricate sound design.  Special features, however, leave more to be desired.  They include the de rigueur director’s commentary and deleted scenes along with five boringly by-the-book mini-featurettes” “An Epic Story About Love,” “Adapting Tolstoy,” “Keira as Anna,” “On Set with Director Joe Wright,” and “Dressing Anna.”  Despite the bland productions, content is at least interesting in “Adapting Tolstoy” (on how they tackled such a complex work and came up with the unique style) and “Dressing Anna” (how the costume design was a combination of 1950’s couture with late 19th-century silhouettes).

Standing head and tail above the other bonus features is “Time-Lapse Photography,” a time-lapse shot of the construction and continual evolution of Anna’s principal set, the theatre.

In summation, Anna Karenina triumphs in style but falls flat as film.

anna-karenina-blu-ray

Around The Web

Latest News

Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley Talk VACATION, Impressive Cameos & More

The writer/directors talk about their directorial debut which is now in theaters.

New Hi-Res BATMAN V SUPERMAN Images Feature Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent

Gal Gadot also gets a new stylish image showing off her Diana Prince character.

James Ponsoldt Talks THE END OF THE TOUR, Financing Challenges, His Shooting Style and More

Ponsoldt also discusses telling the story from David Lipsky's eyes but also conveying David Foster Wallace's perspective.

New Posters for BLACK MASS Starring Johnny Depp and SICARIO Starring Emily Blunt

'Black Mass' and 'Sicario' will both play at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening in theaters on September 18, 2015.

Collider Movie Talk: Is Channing Tatum Leaving GAMBIT?

On today's episode of Collider Movie Talk, the crew discusses Channing Tatum possibly leaving 'Gambit', the trailers for 'The Night Before' and '13 Hours', 'Wonder Woman', and more.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL Revisited: “Mission: Accomplished!”

Brad Bird’s film gets 'Mission: Impossible' right by building a team around everything going wrong.

FANTASTIC FOUR Featurette: Department of Defense Makes Plans for the “Assets”

"From tragedy comes opportunity ..."

GHOSTBUSTERS: Chris Pratt/Channing Tatum Spinoff May Be Moving Forward

The interconnected 'Ghostbusters' universe may be happening after all.

Watch: Simon Pegg Returns as Drunk Ron Weasley for Harry Potter’s Birthday

Poor Ron.

SPOTLIGHT Trailer: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams Expose Catholic Church Sex Abuse

The true story drama revolves around the Boston Globe journalists who rocked the world with their investigation.

Page 1 of 4,06512345...102030...Last »