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Anna Karenina – A Film Ballet

November 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

        By Geoffrey Maingart Los Angeles, CA(Hollywood Today)11/16/12/–The new film Anna Karenina directed by Joe Wright and more accurately based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy is a visual and emotional ballet set as a play within a film.  It was a treat to watch the film in a private showing with both the director, Joe Wright and cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey in attendance and speaking after the showing. Both for budget and artistic reasons Wright created an almost surrealistic stage set for most of the film and with great performances by this ensemble cast that included Kiera Knightley as Anna and Jude Law as Karenin one was guided through an amazing kaleidoscope of images that was guided by a brilliant musical score by Dario Marianelli. Unlike most films that are scored in post-production, this was most scored before production creating a ballet effect throughout. The set and costumed extras design shined and will most certainly realize gold in the upcoming award season.  The stage as such brought the audience both on the main set where the aristocracy would be in Moscow, St Petersburg, Karenin’s office, the children’s room, a train station and even a horse race with just the pan of a camera.  This was an extraordinary technical achievement.  A ballroom scene with magnificent music and a stylized waltz will certainly be known as one of the finest dance sequences in film history.               The story is still about love and carnal desire and the visuals are often like a Magritte painting where a shredded note turns to snow, consumed extras freeze like wax statues while the main characters move the story, stage hands and extras in the rafters amid ropes and pulleys represent the proletariat and even a surreal scene where the stage itself is part of a field of flowers.  If you are a purest and expect the literal telling of the novel, then you will be disappointed.  If you want to see an extraordinary, stylized and poetic piece of film making then you might be amazed.  The performances are very fine and Wright’s technical use of close-ups throughout the film are beautifully shot and help transition from one scene to the next.  It is a moving tableau and travels often like an amusement park attraction.               Jude Law’s priest-like performance of the bearded and bespectacled Karenin is brilliant as the proper and jealous and subdued bureaucrat.  Knightley plays Anna in Wright’s version wonderfully as she guides her character down a path to destruction.  Aaron Taylor Johnson as a young and shallow officer Vronsky is very good.  The other story of Levin played wonderfully by Domhnall Gleeson and beautiful Alicia Vakander as Kitty and other related characters weave this soap opera of relationships together.  The horse race created in this theater set is really extraordinary film making and must have been quite an amazing challenge for cinematographer, McGarvery who is brilliant in this collaboration with Wright.  Kudos have to go to screenwriter, Tom Stoppard, production designer Sarah Greenwood and costume designer, Jacqueline Durran.           The film was amazingly shot in 65 days although the project was a 2-year undertaking and it was shot on film and not digital as McGarvey mentioned smilingly to us all after the showing.  He said that today is a great time to be a filmmaker with all the advances that have occurred technically.  For this writer it is more interesting to speak of this film as an artistic and visual undertaking instead of re-telling the story of Anna Karenina.  One can only bring just a portion of this great novel to a 2-hour film.  The story of the characters is never forgotten in this production and the result of a brilliant cast and direction make this movie a wonderful cinematic experience worth enjoying.    

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