The classic story of “Anna Karenina,” written by Leo Tolstoy, is once again played on the screen, this time by the beautiful Keira Knightley, whose character Anna is highly regarded in Russia in the late 19th century. Anna is the wife of a high government official, Alexei Karenin, a cold, officious husband, played by Jude Law.
Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
In Russia, when a woman marries and takes her husband’s name, she is given the feminine version of his name, ending in the letter “a.” Hence, Alexei Karenin’s wife becomes Anna Karenina. The two are the parents of a young boy.
The story opens when Anna is called to Moscow to come to the aid of her brother, Prince Oblonsky, to convince his wife Dolly not to divorce him in spite of his infidelities. Anna’s mission is accomplished, but on returning to the train station, Anna encounters, for the second time, Count Alexei Vronsky, with whose mother Anna had shared a train compartment on the way to Moscow. Anna and Vronsky are immediately attracted to one another.
Jude Law as Alexei Karenin
Thus begins a secret love affair which eventually becomes known to Anna’s husband Karenin as well as to those in their social circle. Such an affair was looked down upon in Russia at that time, and Anna is slowly dropped by society, as she refuses to give up the man that she loves deeply. Vronsky appears in the film to be younger than Anna, and is besotted with her, and uncaring about the social mores of the day.
A subplot or two are introduced wherein other love interests are carried on, but in a more socially accepted manner, thus highlighting the unscrupulous affair between Vronsky and Anna. The film story stayed true to Leo Tolstoy's tale of Anna's life in the 19th century.
Author Leo Tolstoy
Most of the supporting cast is English. Emma Thompson, known to American audiences as Hermione in the Harry Potter series, and Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, have cameo roles in “Anna Karenina,” adding to the coveted presence of prominent talented actresses in the cast.
The costumes are incredibly beautiful, enough so that the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Much ado is made of the method used by screenwriter Tom Stoppard to impart the story in a unique manner. It might be called “a play within a play” as the actors are seen walking around props on a stage, a most peculiar set-up. This writer coped with the process by just ignoring that technique and concentrating on the story itself.
I have wanted for a long time to know the story of “Anna Karenina.” This opportunity was the perfect setting for an understanding of this unforgettable classic.