Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has been made and remade for decades. The most recent attempt sees director Joe Wright pull together Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and, in the title role, Keira Knightley. What they create is a retelling of the novel that is epic — perhaps more so than you’d expect.
Anna Karenina tells the story of the wife of an aristocratic who falls madly in love with another man. Society makes it essentially impossible for her to leave her husband (Law) for her lover (Taylor-Johnson). Anna is consumed by her new reality as a social outcast.
Wright’s Anna Karenina could easily be mistaken for a Bad Luhrmann production. The film is conceptual with modern touches. Luckily, however, Wright avoids the contemporary infused route. Instead the film is portrayed like a play, elevating private and public lives to be on literal display. A number of scenes are choreographed with a musicality that comes through the movements of extras.
While the acting is occasionally and intentionally kitschy, Anna Karenina is oddly intriguing and consuming. Wright tries to be too clever at times but the film’s unique point of view is fresh and fanciful in addition to being cinematically beautiful.