How must I begin? After spending all of my free time this semester reading the 800 page Tolstoy novel, I was incredibly excited to go see the beautiful new film. I didn’t even allow myself to watch previews until I finished the book. I finished it on a Sunday night, went to see the movie on a Monday night. Then I died.
It was a film that completely forgot about its roots. Tolstoy is currently turning over in his grave. Besides the fact that I was incredibly proud of myself for completing such an ambitious reading task – which for me, is saying a lot – I adored the book. When it was over, despite the tragic conclusion, I felt content. The resolution of Kitty and Levin, looking at society’s ability to singlehandedly ruin a life right in the eye, and the numerous epiphanies made by key characters made reading the book a worthwhile experience.
So here’s why it killed me – it completely striped the story of its eloquence. Instead of admiring the drama presented by Tolstoy, it was ignored – and replaced by a strange need to provide a deeper concept. Here’s what needs to be said: Tolstoy already has the romantic depth, the spiritual development, and the ability to keep an audience intrigued. There is NO NEED to further these ideas.
Okay, so the entire film was presented on a stage. Obviously this signifies how one life in society is a spectacle – the presence of the audience defines this life. The response of the audience can lead to either its success or its demise. We get it. For five minutes. The full length feature film was not necessary and made the entire concept beat itself into the ground.
Another deal breaker was the writing. There are so many passages in the book that I absolutely fell in love with – the romance between countless characters, especially Levin coming to his religious epiphany. The words have such perfection, why do they feel such a need to take these pieces away, only to fill them with overzealous and dramatic one liners of characters to whom we have zero connection.
The most frustrating aspect of this was that it was perfectly cast. Kiera Knightley has done her fair share of British literature heroines, so we knew and fully expected a wonderful performance. Sure, Anna Karenina could hardly be seen as a heroine, perhaps more of a martyr to a society held responsible for her demise. Frankly,Knightley was among the biggest disappointments (she’s great, I blame the writing). Matthew McFadyen was PERFECTION as Oblonsky. Alicia Vikander and Domnhall Gleeson were amazing as Kitty and Levin (and that helped that they were my favorite characters). Jude Law as Karenin. The list goes on – it was perfect. So why did the film have to be such a serious let down?
That’s all – you can tell my ramblings stem from a weeklong frustration. Sorry there’s no organization in this review – one star. This star is for the cast and the costumes, otherwise it was the biggest disappointment to date.