Tuesday, November 20, 2012
As the theater darkened, I thought - I can't wait to be swept up in a romantic, dramatic, grand scale period piece.
And then Anna Karenina began with lighthearted hustle and bustle both on and behind a theater stage. The underlying music had comedic tones, the whole thing was choreographed as if it were the opening to a high stepping, rousing musical theater piece. WTF! What does any of this have to do with what I've known of Leo Tolstoy's immortal classic "Anna Karenina"?
Tom Stoppard's screenplay holds no poetry. It's deliberately streamlined. Certainly not written for anyone looking to get caught up in romantic, elegant dialogue or narration. Director Joe Wright's decision to create an avant-garde fringe festival type showcase, instead of a sweeping, BBC-like epic drama, was quite disappointing to me. Seemingly the film's main objective was to light striking visuals and artistic camera angles.
Yet, the intricate dance at the ball was apropos choreography and an all together gorgeous scene. And after a time, I became accustomed and even impressed with the imaginative, dramatic shifts and movements as characters walk thru doors or out of frame and instantaneously find themselves in another scene. And every once in a while, the sets do appear as you imagine the movie would be - rich and aristocratic; still, I never stopped being off put by the scenes taking place on stage. At least the footlights were gas lighted, no Broadway klieg lights.
I suppose Wright and the producers felt they could take such liberties as they knew they had a perfectly cast actress in the lead role. Keira Knightley is made for characters such as this. Her lithe frame allows her to wear beautiful clothing so elegantly. Her unhinged jaw juts out at just the right angle to play a woman of means and spirit. Her body language is so believable when portraying a fit of temper or slight madness. Most importantly, you can imagine men falling helplessly in love with her in an instant. And she in turn, being a fool for love.