Every once in a while a film comes along which dares to do things so differently that it blows your mind and leaves you wondering why no-one has done it before.
Screenwriter Tom Stoppard and Director Joe Wright’s sweeping, colourful and thrilling adaptation of Anna Karenina is such a film.
Almost the entirety of the action takes place on a single stage, turning the whole film into a theatrical tour de force in which location swaps are conveyed with changes of backcloths and a child’s train set stands in for the real thing.
Very occasionally the action moves from within its theatrical stage setting to actual location shooting. This should be jarring, yet Wright manages to make the changes work without distrubing the audience or detracting from the story.
The bold staging is complimented by rich, sumptuous costumes and a stunning soundtrack against which love, treachery and human fragility are played out.
The actors – especially leads Keira Knightley (Anna), Jude Law (Anna’s husband Aleksei), and Aaron Johnson (Anna’s lover Count Vronsky) – revel in the chance this gives them to play large, while swirling between scene changes and pouring their emotions over the piece.
Knightley is superb as the very proper Anna who slowly finds herself unable to resist her attraction to Vronsky while Jude Law manages to bury his usual twinkle and physical charms deep inside Karenina’s stuffy suits.
Johnson is charming and attractive but perhaps not sufficiently so to plausibly turn Anna from her initial righteous path. Ten or so years ago this is a role Law might well have found himself playing.
Like its titular character, Anna Karenina may not be perfect but it is beautiful, energetic and bold and deserves to be enjoyed on the big screen.
Our verdict: 4.5/5