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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina on the big screen. We’ll open Tolstoy’s classic novel of, passion, love and despair.

This publicity film image released by Focus Features shows Keira Knightley in a scene from "Anna Karenina." While “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement” were fresh, lively takes for an age that finds costume drama stuffy, director Joe Wright planned a wild and possibly off-putting ride on “Anna Karenina,” confining most of the action to a dilapidated theater where the actors would perform in a stylized cinematic ballet without the usual grand sweep of period-drama locations. (AP)

This publicity film image released by Focus Features shows Keira Knightley in a scene from “Anna Karenina.” While “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement” were fresh, lively takes for an age that finds costume drama stuffy, director Joe Wright planned a wild and possibly off-putting ride on “Anna Karenina,” confining most of the action to a dilapidated theater where the actors would perform in a stylized cinematic ballet without the usual grand sweep of period-drama locations. (AP)

Greta Garbo played it.  Vivien Leigh played it, after Gone with the Wind.  Now it’s Keira Knightley’s star turn as Anna Karenina – the beautiful and doomed 19th century Russian aristocrat made slave to passion, desire, adultery.

The great Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina not as a potboiler, but as vivid instruction on the power of love, right and wrong, human splendor, and human flaws.  It raises what Russians call the Cursed Question:  How should I live?  Maybe David Patraeus should have read it.  Maybe he did.

This hour, On Point:  we’re rereading Anna Karenina.

-Tom Ashbrook


Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post.

Andrew Kaufman, lecturer in Slavic languages and literature at the University of Virginia. He’s the author of Understanding Tolstoy.

Carol Appolonio, professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “Bad literary adaptations are all alike, but every successful literary adaptation succeeds in its own way. The bad ones — or let’s just say the average ones, to spare the feelings of hard-working wig makers and dialect coaches — are undone by humility, by anxious obeisance to the cultural prestige of literature. The good ones succeed through hubris, through the arrogant assumption that a great novel is not a sacred artifact but rather a lump of interesting material to be shaped according to the filmmaker’s will.”

Seattle Times “Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin is a government official; an older man with, according to his creator, Leo Tolstoy, large tired eyes and a deliberate, ungraceful gait. “Without haste and without rest” is his motto, in a life so meticulously scheduled and compartmentalized that it comes as a shock to him that his wife, Anna, has eyes for another man. In Joe Wright’s lavishly theatrical screen version of “Anna Karenina” (opening Wednesday), he is played by a seemingly unlikely actor: Jude Law, the handsome Brit who burst on the scene with “Wilde” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and who not so long ago might have seemed the obvious choice for Anna’s dashing young lover, Vronsky.”


Check out the official trailer for Anna Karenina.


Overture by Dario Marianelli
Dance With Me by Dario Marianelli
Too Late by Dario Marianelli
Curtain by Dario Marianelli

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  • Pingback: Jude Law: ‘thrilled’ to be part of ‘Anna Karenina’ – The Seattle Times | Live Finance News

  • Thinkin5

    I thought that the movie was beautiful, to the point of distraction, with it’s incredible costumes and sets. I had to make myself pay attention to the dialogue! Loved the music too. I will need to see it again and absorb more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.h.lacroix Emily Harvey Lacroix

    Tom, ENOUGH with David Petraeus!

    Anna Karenina is the only book I didn’t finish in my school career; yet, it’s stayed with me more than many others. It made me think.

  • mso9999

    As true monogamy is revealed to be an ideal life plan for a vanishingly small fraction of the population, the stakes of her ‘crime’ are difficult to appreciate with anything other than a historical interest.

  • Joseph_Wisconsin

    Please what the #&%@! does this have to do with David Patraeus? Anyway . . .  Great book.  I generally read it again every 10 years or so, and each time get something new and different out of it.  I have seen the Greta Garbo and Vivian Leigh  films, and did not think much of them. I am going to to keep an open mind about the new film, despite what appears to be a lot of gimmicky aspects to it.  Maybe it will not work as an adaption of Anna Karenina, but will be an entertaining spectacle in its own right.  

  • Laurel Wolfe

    I re-read the book every four or five years, not by plan but because I’m drawn back to it time and again, which is what fine books do.  With each reading, and each stage of my own maturity I gain new perspectives and absorb the story more fully.  When I myself was young and romantic, Vronsky and Anna had all my focus.  In my twenties the Russian panorama of the time received my attention.  Only in my thirties did I give Levin’s life search and his journey toward attainment of a full family life with Kitty their proper due.  At sixteen, I found Levin to be a tiresome navel-gazer.  At thirty-five, I understood.  Layer upon layer with each reading, so that now, in my fifties, I can fully absorb this brilliant tale in all its many complexities.  As to this newest film adaptation, I wish it well and hope it succeeds, for it’s a vehicle to a new generation, and I hope it will take people who have never read the book to it.  I would think that most people have their favorites of the various film versions, and this will surely join those.  But for me there is only one, with Sean Bean and Sophie Marceau.  That is my film Anna Karenina, because they brought entire life, intelligence, conflict and beauty, they brought all that is in the book to the screen, and so I’ll pass on this new one.  I’m happy to hold the Marceau/Bean version to my heart as closely as I hold the book itself.  No other film version is necessary for me.

  • godiva16

    I am really OVER Keira Knightley, with her picture-prettiness but inability to act, snapping up all these plum roles that SHOULD be delivered by actresses with more depth. 

  • Laurel Wolfe

    Yes, godiva16, I agree with you.  She has a brittle, deer-in-the-headlights aspect which always overtakes the actual character she is meant to be portraying.  Only once did this quality serve her, in my opinion, and that was in Atonement.  I did think she was well-cast for that role.  It’s the only film I could stand her in.  Overall the entire casting for this current version of A.K. has me scratching my head – I don’t see Jude Law as Vronsky by any stretch of the imagination, and I was disappointed by the choice of Knightley for this role.  I am admittedly very biased toward the screen version I mentioned in my post below, and believe they got it as right as can be done these days.

  • dm50

    Hi, Professor Apollonio’s name is mispelled above. Would you mind correcting it? Thanks
    a librarian-colleague at Duke who loves your show.
    I listen on WUNC/Durham, WHQR/Wilmington, WLRN/Ft Lauderdale, and WVBA/Brattleboro…I get around but so do you!

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