Star rating - 8/10
It's a brave director that takes on the might of Tolstoy, with so many earlier adaptations to serve as comparisons. My own favourite is the BBC TV series from 1977 that had me glued to the sofa for weeks - no mean feat for a teenager. Nicola Pagett's beautiful, dignified and brave Anna will always be the one for me. And Tolstoy's classic novel is one of my all time favourite reads - and one of the only books I have invested enough time in to read it on several occasions. So no pressure on this Joe Wright directed production then.
The unusual setting for many of the scenes of a theatre was apparently forced on the director due to lack of budget for big location shots. It works in a splendid Baz Luhrmann kind of way for much of the film, but just sometimes appears a bit too clever and pleased with itself to totally convince. Keira Knightly, not one of my favourite actresses to say the least, does well in the role of Anna, whose behaviour in leaving her staid bureaucrat husband for a dashing cavalry officer in pre revolutionary Russia shocked polite society.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is perfect as Count Vronsky, Anna's lover - all charm, insistence and passion, and very beautiful to cast your eyes over for the duration, it has to be said. Jude Law as her tedious, undemonstrative but wronged husband is a little miscast. He feels too young and not quite boring enough in fact for the role. And although I can't quite put my finger on which bit of the chemistry was lacking, the three leads didn't arouse my emotions like they should have done.
But the sets and costumes are simply sumptuous. The fur hat against dashing blizzards look is certainly one to look out for and flatters Knightly's undoubtedly handsome features. And obviously a film adaptation cannot really do justice to some of the main themes of the book - the idealist philosophy of Levin; the pull between countryside and city representing the old order and the new. Levin and Kitty's own romantic side story gives a nice counterpoint to the main affair of the heart. So by all means enjoy this gorgeous production, but if you are feeling like being particularly kind to yourself, go on and read the devastatingly brilliant Tolstoy original afterwards too.