dirac

Anna Karenina

54 posts in this topic

Does anyone else recall the 1977 BBC "Anna Karenina"? Nicola Pagett's Anna is the best I've ever seen, as was Eric Porter's Karenin and Stuart Wilson's Vronsky.

Share this post


Link to post

Also his curly hair, moustache, and manner often reminded me, distractingly, of a younger Gene Wilder as Baron Frankenstein.

Oh, that can't be a good sign. I had a hard enough time taking Vronsky seriously in the book.

Yes, I think that actor was miscast. Dirac is right. I do not keep up with current actors, so I didn't know who any of them were except Jude Law. I knew the name Keira Knightly but had no idea who she was really. I literally stick to opera and ballet dvds on my computer!!! I watch movies occasionally but seldom know who anyone is (actors).

So Knightly did not bother me. I haven't noticed her omni-presence that others mention. She seemed so pretty and elegant. I felt that the love she had for her son was not the traditional maternal love, but I also didn't think the novel's characterization of Anna's love for her son was exactly the normal type either. For me it seemed that she always wanted what she could not have (Vronsky and her son while not appreciating Karenin or her daughter that she had with Vronsky....basically not longing for the people she could have in her life, instead longing for those she can't have) which is actually a pretty normal human thing. I've seen this behavior in many friends.

For me the biggest mistake the movie made was the "Gene Wilder" Vronsky, as Dirac names him. LOL

Share this post


Link to post

[...] the progression from Garbo and Leigh to Marceau and Knightley leads one to question Darwin anew.

This made me laugh on principle, but I'm afraid I actually haven't seen any of the Anna Karenina movies....but MakaravaFan--I DO remember Nicola Padgett as Anna in the television series and how much I loved her in the role.

Oddly (or not so oddly on this message board) my favorite embodiment of Anna Karenina is now Ekaterina Kondaurova in the admitedly not altogether successful Ratmansky ballet.

Share this post


Link to post

MakarovaFan and Drew, I have only the vaguest recollection of the BBC series with Pagett. I do remember that she was beautiful and touching but can't recall how she handled the more difficult aspects of the role. I'm willing to trust you both, though.

Garbo isn't at her best in either version (she did two, one a silent version with a happy ending (!?!) which miliosr discusses on another thread. Even when not at her best she still outclasses the field. I also thought Fredric March was a good Vronsky, not terribly sexy but otherwise very much the cavalryman Mashinka described upthread. (Vronsky is a womanizer and a tough customer but he still has to be carried away by Anna.)

I saw the Eifman version, not Ratmansky's, but this story is too complex for ballet IMO. Maybe Tudor or possibly Ashton could have come up with an interesting version. And let's not forget that Anna K. was also the basis for the epochal role Bancroft and MacLaine fight over in The Turning Point. :)

Share this post


Link to post

The effeminate, creepy Vronsky ruined this film for me. How Anna gave-up her life for this little blonde curly-topped Joker is a puzzlement. This was miscasting of the worst order.

I also wondered why the guests at the ball kept practicing the Hula Dance with their arms and hands.

Did anyone else notice the use of the Bolshoi's painted-drapes curtain from its recent production of Paquita Grand Pas?

Share this post


Link to post

The Ratmansky excised most of the Kitty/Levin story -- the contrast would have been a very good ballet subject -- and muddled the Karenins' relationship. It did provide a lot of drama for Anna K., but it missed the domestication of her relationship with Vronsky. Philosophy is more out of place in narrative ballet than mothers-in-law.

I wish I had been able to stay in NYC for the Kondaurova Anna K, even though I didn't like the ballet much -- I saw it with Vishneva -- as well as the Somova "Little Humpbacked Horse," but, alas, I had to return mid-week.

Share this post


Link to post

I also wondered why the guests at the ball kept practicing the Hula Dance with their arms and hands.

I had the same thought, Natalia. (It also seemed to be the only dance anyone at the ball knew.) I thought perhaps the movie’s choreographer had researched some social dance I didn’t recognize, but evidently not.

Share this post


Link to post

I thought perhaps the movie’s choreographer had researched some social dance I didn’t recognize, but evidently not.

from the link above

"the waltz being a notoriously stiff and proper dance form."

Someone has not been doing much homework. The waltz was an incredibly scandalous dance when it was first debuted, in part because of the shared weight (Ruth Katz's essay in The Dance Anthology is a great resource) -- it would take a little finesse to make this clear in a film, but it's certainly not impossible. Take a look at the dance sequence in A Royal Affair to see an example -- they take a much tamer period in social dance (mid-18th c) and make the most of it.

Share this post


Link to post

The Ratmansky excised most of the Kitty/Levin story -- the contrast would have been a very good ballet subject -- and muddled the Karenins' relationship. It did provide a lot of drama for Anna K., but it missed the domestication of her relationship with Vronsky. Philosophy is more out of place in narrative ballet than mothers-in-law.

I wish I had been able to stay in NYC for the Kondaurova Anna K, even though I didn't like the ballet much -- I saw it with Vishneva -- as well as the Somova "Little Humpbacked Horse," but, alas, I had to return mid-week.

I was trying to think how the ballet could have told the Levin story alongside Anna's and I think too much of his story is so philosophical and would not lend itself to dancing. I do think that a couple of short scenes with Kitty and Levin should have been attempted in the ballet. They simply disappeared. Levin is basically the opposite of Anna and is more like the actual main character in a way.

But I saw an operatic version of Anna Karenina in Miami several years ago and when I saw that I felt it tried to do too much. It tried to keep the Levin story in and as a result (in order to keep the opera fairly normal in length) you never felt you got to know the characters that well b/c it attempted to show scene after scene, and I never felt I knew the operatic Anna at all and had no feelings toward her (unlike in the book) and was so happy when she threw herself on the tracks b/c I knew it meant the opera was ending soon! LOL I think there was just one last scene with Levin and his family after that. I personally thought the opera tried to do too much and simply did not work at all.

So when I heard the Ratmansky ballet concentrated mainly on Anna I thought that made more sense in the theatre (since Levin is so difficult to keep in and keep a movie or opera or ballet a normal length), but I found Ratmansky's ballet fairly boring. There were a few interesting moments but too many boring moments and then it ended so suddenly. I think the music didn't help. I really wanted to like the ballet, b/c I love the novel. Maybe this is a story that really only works well as a novel.

Share this post


Link to post

I just went to see this. I'm surprised it did not disappointed me as I expected. The whole theatrical setting didn't bother me at all, although I could had been happier sans that fantasy of a waltz. Knightley was decent, if not wonderful. She had her moments and her "moments". Someone needs to get her to abandon her teeth-clenching cliché though. It gets too repetitive. Still, I definitely sympathized with her youthful Anna. Let's make note that Knightley is even two years Karenina's senior-(28 vs. 26). I loved Law as karenin-(he was for me the highlight of the film), and Vronsky was exactly as I had pictured him from the novel, at least physically, if not that emotionally vulnerable as he's portrayed in the film. Oh, and I would say they sort of overindulged in Knightley's dressing up game. Too much fashion show.

Share this post


Link to post
Let's make note that Knightley is even two years Karenina's senior-(28 vs. 26).

I don't think that's quite the case, cubanmiamiboy, but for me the issue was not so much Knightley's chronological age than the immaturity of the portrayal. Anna is in her late twenties, but that was older then than it is now. She's a settled married woman, with a child, who acts as the hostess for a prominent man and runs his house. She's the kind of woman that Oblonsky calls in as reinforcements when he's screwed up his marriage.

Take a look at the dance sequence in A Royal Affair to see an example -- they take a much tamer period in social dance (mid-18th c) and make the most of it.

Sorry I missed that movie. I don't think AK's choreographer would have tried the swami dance stuff in a film with a naturalistic setting, though.

Share this post


Link to post

The most beautiful and effective Anna K in ballet was the Mariinsky's first version, ca-1994, by Andre Prokovsky, to Tchaikovsky (cobbled score, a-la Cranko Onegin). Makhalina and Zaklinsky were magical -- most convincing Anna/Vronsky pair I've ever seen, in any medium. Lopatkina was exquisite as Kitty, a role that is more developed in the Prokovsky edition. Yevgeni Neff was Levin, with Ponomaryov as Karenin. The skaters' ballet in Act I was gorgeous. Lush, realistic sets/costumes, a 1,000 times better than what we saw with the Ratmansky. I am guessing that the Prokovsky production was a short-term rental because it should have stayed in the rep, it so fit the Mariinsky to a T.

p.s. The child in that production was Ivan Sitnikov, now a member of the MT corps de ballet and son of ex-ballerina Irina Sitnkova.

Share this post


Link to post

I have heard about that version of the AK ballet. I have heard it was better than the Ratmansky version.

Share this post


Link to post
Let's make note that Knightley is even two years Karenina's senior-(28 vs. 26).

I don't think that's quite the case, cubanmiamiboy, but for me the issue was not so much Knightley's chronological age than the immaturity of the portrayal. Anna is in her late twenties, but that was older then than it is now. She's a settled married woman, with a child, who acts as the hostess for a prominent man and runs his house. She's the kind of woman that Oblonsky calls in as reinforcements when he's screwed up his marriage.

It's been awhile since I read the novel, but in my memory AK is more of an adult -- one who may have missed experiences in her life, but she's a grown up in a grown up world. Part of her reaction to Vronsky reminds me of the Marschalin in Rosenkavalier -- an unexpected last chance at romantic love.

Share this post


Link to post

It's been awhile since I read the novel, but in my memory AK is more of an adult -- one who may have missed experiences in her life, but she's a grown up in a grown up world.

It would have been interesting to see Vivien Leigh tackle the role around 1941 or so, with Olivier. She wasn't quite ready for it but she was a maturer performer than Knightley. There would have been no problem with romantic chemistry and the screen would likely have had its best Vronsky.The story would have been a bit too close to home, probably. (Leigh was married at 19 to an older man and had a daughter at 20; she left him for Olivier and it took years to push through the two divorces.)

Apollinaire Scherr digs the swami dance (note the following is not a direct quote from Scherr, but a quote of a quote):

The hands are free to undulate and unfurl like time-lapse vines winding up trellises and flowering. "The looseness of the wrist only suggests touch. The hands flow through one another like weaving. I wanted the waltz to be magical, and you know how when you cast a spell it is with the weaving of hands?"

Maybe, and there's no harm in experiment, but IMO you can still make magic with a plain waltz and the sexiness of the dance as described by sandik is not really that difficult to dramatize.

Share this post


Link to post

This film does not seem to be getting much love in terms of nominations/year-end best of lists. No SAG nominations, no awards from various film critics associations, to my kjnowledge. I suspect it may get nominations for non-acting categories, like costumes.

Share this post


Link to post

It would have been interesting to see Vivien Leigh tackle the role around 1941 or so, with Olivier. She wasn't quite ready for it but she was a maturer performer than Knightley. There would have been no problem with romantic chemistry and the screen would likely have had its best Vronsky.

Indeed, we missed out on this one!

Maybe, and there's no harm in experiment, but IMO you can still make magic with a plain waltz and the sexiness of the dance as described by sandik is not really that difficult to dramatize.

And since you mention Leigh, think of the ball scene in Gone with the Wind!

Share this post


Link to post

Another that comes to mind is the ball in the 1949 Madame Bovary with Jennifer Jones, where Vincente Minnelli's swirling camera and the rhythms of the waltz convey Emma's disturbance, plainly erotic in nature. (The movie as a whole is hopelessly overscaled in the MGM fancy manner but it's worth checking out.)

I suspect it may get nominations for non-acting categories, like costumes.

Very likely, abatt. I tend to agree with cubanmiamiboy that they went a bit overboard with Knightley's costuming, but a high-profile period picture tends to be a slam dunk for such nominations. I wouldn't be surprised if Law winds up with a nomination somewhere along the line. Box office will play a role there.

Share this post


Link to post

I finally saw this film on Monday night and I've been chewing it over ever since This is usually a good sign! I like movies that make me think. I've also seen Joe Wright's "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice", movies with the same female star. I've concluded that Mr. Wright is Britain's Stephen Spielberg for costume dramas. His films have inventive, visually gorgeous cinematography, costumes to die for, top notch screen writers, one or two casting revelations, one or two horribly miscast actors, one or two very long tracking shots, and end product films that make you feel like you just ate desert, when you wanted a savory main course.

Matthew Macfadyen was dead-on wonderful as Oblonsky, I liked that he played against type and "disappeared" into the role. The mustache was a minor character of its own. The entire supporting cast was well cast, Kitty was appealing without being cloying, and her romance with Levin was given a deft, light touch. Jude Law made Karenin into a deeply sympathic character. I know some envision a greying, more elderly man. But this depiction of a tightly wound man, with deep convictions, carrying the weight of heavy responsibilities really resonated. My heart went out to Karenin and I felt next to nothing for Vronsky.

Which brings to me to my great, gaping hole of casting mistakes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky. In my mind's eye, Vronsky is a full blooded man of action who lights Anna Karenina's passion in opposition to her technocrat husband's rectitude. The bleach blonde hair looks like they used cheap Sun-In, and this characterization is merely a callow dandy that even teenagers would see through.

Based on the positive reviews on this thread and from co-workers, I tried to see Keira Knightley with new eyes. While she avoids some of her usual habits, the character just never develops, and I felt nothing of her despair when she finally commits suicide. It's really sad when you're sitting in the cinema trying to re-cast roles before the movie ends. I think of Anna as more passionate, with a curvier figure of a full grown woman who has already given birth. Her descent to suicide wasn't well developed or convincing. Long before credits rolled, I decided Rachel Weisz would have been the perfect fit for Anna.

I liked the theatrical setting, it helped me suspend reality and jump into that world, and accept that not every single line from the book would go into this movie. This would be a re-imagining of the Tolstoy story. I was game, and all the theatrical set changes were fascinating to watch. I was still in that frame of mind during the waltz scene, but it got rather tiresome and by the end of the dance I wished they had axed the extraneous hand choreography. Over time, the inventive in-theatre staging seemed to peter out and the movie switched from the model train to regular trains, offices in the upper portions of the theatre gave way to more traditional looking offices, etc. Did they run out of ideas for the theatrical transformations? Or did they run out of time and money?

The staging of the horse race was the expected revelation, along with Mr. Macfadyen's affectionate scoundrel Oblonsky. So the movie wasn't a failure, or a total success. It was a flawed feast for the eyes. Go see it, but pay matinee price.

Share this post


Link to post

Which brings to me to my great, gaping hole of casting mistakes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky....The bleach blonde hair looks like they used cheap Sun-In,

I thought I was the only person left who remembered that product! I had an unfortunate experience with trying to be a summer blonde...

I am still hoping to get to see this before the Oscars, but it's looking shakey... maybe a mid-week trip.

Share this post


Link to post

When I saw it I, I kept thinking on Charlize Theron as a Hollywood Karenina. Agree..?

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, I think Ms. Theron could pull it off. I saw a picture of her recently with her hair shaved down to about 1cm length, her natural color is quite dark and I think she could pull off the role. She is very tall, though, and would need a tall Vronsky.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, I think Ms. Theron could pull it off. I saw a picture of her recently with her hair shaved down to about 1cm length, her natural color is quite dark and I think she could pull off the role. She is very tall, though, and would need a tall Vronsky.

And she has that dramatic, femme fatale bearing, aside from being stunningly, womanly beautiful. Knightley was too childish and skinny for my taste.

4771,xcitefun-charlize-theron-gq-july-2008-1.jpgcharlize-theron-wallpaper%2B%25282%2529.jpg

Share this post


Link to post