The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Anna Karenina | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Anna Karenina

Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Kelly MacDonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew MacFadyen, Emily Watson, Domhnall Gleeson

In nineteenth century Russia, wealthy wife Anna Karenina (Knightley) embarks on an affair with young Count Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson).
Should Vladimir Putin ever have the misfortune to witness Joe Wright's "Carry On Tolstoy" adaptation of one of Russia's most revered texts, he may have to suppress the urge to nuke Britain off the map. It's a very British take on a very Russian novel. Wright is of that most horrid breed of film-maker, the vulgarian. I've never read the source text but I'm certain it doesn't contain a farting dog as seen here.
The film is about as Russian as a Big Mac. Were it not for the character names you would assume it was set in South-East England. Every cast member speaks as though they were born in Surrey, even the non-English actors. When Robin Hood speaks with an American accent the British climb aboard their cultural high horse and scream blasphemy yet they consistently make films set in foreign lands without so much as an attempt to replicate the local accent. The "Little England" mentality at it's worst. One positive of this is that we aren't subjected to Knightley's horrific Russian accent as heard in "A Dangerous Method".
Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard conspire to give us a Luhrman-ized version of the story, by way of Lars Von Trier's "Dogville". The sets are constructed around the actors as though we are witnessing a play and most annoyingly of all, a full orchestra walks in and out of screen performing the soundtrack. Oh how quirky! Unfortunately nobody told Wright how ridiculous and pretentious this would look in the finished product. Wright of course is entitled to do what he wants but not when it's someone else's material, someone who can't defend their work from beyond the grave. Sadly Tolstoy has no Kim Novak figure to take out a two page ad in Variety decrying the butchery committed on his tale.
Knightley is as bad here as ever but luckily for her the performances all around are a shambles. Everyone acts as though they're on stage in a village production of "Mother Goose". You're constantly waiting for them to burst into song which would have been the only justification for the level of camp self-indulgence.
This is cinema at it's very worst, debased, vulgar, the playground bully of the arts. On behalf of what I believe can be the most powerful and poetic of mediums, I apologise. Don't judge cinema by those who shout the loudest, the boorish Wrights and Luhrmanns, there are those who go about their business quietly, confident enough in their voice as not to raise it.