Anna Karenina Reviews
This film is set in Russia in the 1880s and focuses on Anna Karenina (which is pronounced Ka-RE-nina, not Ka-re-NEE-nah), a woman stuck in a loveless marriage with a husband who cares more about how he's perceived. When a charming man named Count Vronsky tries to pursue her, she initially resists him but then plunges into a deep affair with him, causing both of them to suffer the serious consequences of adultery.
This film fails on its own, but mainly it's faulted for being a bad adaptation of a great novel. The actors were miscast, the story was over-simplified and the film was pretty short for an adaptation of a novel that's over 900 pages. First of all, I'll start with the casting. Sophie Marceau is completely miscast as Anna. Anna in the book is a complex, flawed but somewhat sympathetic character, whereas the film portrayed her as a little-miss-perfect Mary-Sue who suddenly goes crazy, and she doesn't seem to care about who she hurts around her. Sophie Marceau's performance was pretty flat and lifeless, and the same can be said for James Fox as Karenin. Karenin in the book was a three dimensional character who was deeply flawed, but at the same time the reader could see where he was coming from due to the time era he was raised in. The film portrayed him as a one dimensional villain without a conscience. As for Vronsky, Sean Bean had the right amount of charm to play such a character, but it was the writer's fault for changing the way he was written. In the book, Vronsky isn't perfect, given that he's broken hearts in the past and towards the end, he begins to question whether he is truly in love with Anna or not. In the film, he's a hopeless romantic who doesn't have any real faults other than his inability to see why having an affair with a married woman is a bad thing. The only actor in it who I thought was cast well and captured the spirit of their character was Alfred Molina as Levin. He was the stand-out performance in the movie. Apart from him though, the film takes otherwise interesting, realistic characters and turns them into stereotypes.
I would say that after the casting and the way the characters were portrayed, the biggest problem with the movie was how it changed the story. I understand that sometimes, creative licences have to be taken because some things work in books but not on film, and there's also the issue of time. However, this adaptation of 'Anna Karenina' also changed the overall meaning of the original story, especially with the disintegration of Anna and Vronsky's relationship. We see that in the book, Anna is suffering because she isn't able to see her son and when she goes on a trip to Italy with Vronsky, she is still not happy because they frequently get into fights and they have incompatible goals. She also kills herself mainly to spite Vronsky, once again showing how faulted her character is, but the movie doesn't address this. In general, the breakdown of their relationship in the book is caused not only because of societal taboos against divorce, but mainly because Anna and Vronsky ultimately aren't right for each other. They're too different. The film however, neglected this and instead portrayed their romance as a simple love story without exploring the deeper issues present in the book.
Overall, it looked as if whoever made the film didn't read the book but just skimmed through it. It seemed as if they went 'Who cares about complexity? This is a Hollywood film! Let's just make it a soap opera and bring in the money!' Ugh. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in Russia, Leo Tolstoy is rolling in his grave.