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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Anna Karenina (2012)

In late 19th century Russia, a married woman (Keira Knightley) of the aristocracy shocks society when she abandons her husband (Jude Law) and child for a lover (Aaron Taylor Johnson). It's one thing to engage in discreet adultery, quite another to flaunt your passions openly. Does cinema need yet another adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel which has already been filmed multiple times? Working from a perceptive Tom Stoppard (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) screenplay, the director Joe Wright takes an audacious leap and frames the story as a theatrical piece performed on stage. No, not as a filmed play but by making the entire "world" a stage. For example, a business office becomes a restaurant in a matter of seconds as the office staff turn into waiters and moves scenery or when a door onstage is opened and a character walks onto a massive snowbound field. The theatricality is over emphasized and it takes awhile to get used to but when you accept it, it works wonderfully. Stoppard's screenplay retains a bit more of the novel than most previous adaptations. While Taylor-Johnson makes for an effete Vronsky, as she proved in last year's A DANGEROUS METHOD, Knightley's growth as an actress is impressive. With Kelly MacDonald, Emily Watson, Matthew Macfadyen, Olivia Williams, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson.

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