I think I am going to begin reviewing book adaptations on the main basis of how well they stuck with the books because let’s be honest: a truly satisfying adaptation for readers is a hard task to execute.
I read Anna Karenina recently, and I decided to check out the 2012 film adaptation (mostly because of Keira Knightley if I am being honest), which was directed by Joe Wright.
Things I Liked:
- the directing was exceptional. I think the way that the whole production mirrored the way a stage production captures the dreamy way in which Tolstoy wrote this novel. Shots like Karenin sitting alone on an empty stage, in an empty theatre are surreal and hauntingly beautiful.
- the way Russian high society was depicted. At times, actors seemed like nothing more than machine parts, or gossiping, obsessed freaks, and I think this nicely captures the way in which Tolstoy characterized and used satire.
- the acting. Keira Knightley and Aaron-Taylor Johnson had amazing chemistry, and Jude Law made a convincing Karenin.
- the costuming. The costumes were exquisite and so revealing about each of the characters. I am not sure how historically accurate they were but they did so much for the plot of the movie that I was absolutely taken.
- the cinematography. The whole movie is aesthetically pleasing, and done quite beautifully. The transitions are probably some of the best that I’ve ever seen.
Things I did not like:
- omitted scenes. Yes, I understand it’s a long novel but so much was missed and what was missed usually included Levin’s and Kitty’s storyline which is so important in the novel, but had to be treated as a side plot in order to keep the movie at a reasonable length
- bonus annoyance: you know Tolstoy’s famous scene of Levin cutting wheat? it’s like five seconds long in the movie.
- Levin. Levin is such a hard character to translate into physical adaptations, and this is because the man is highly introspective that the only way to communicate his inner dialog, which is a lot of the book, would be through monologues or voice overs. Neither of these were employed in the movie, and it made Levin’s character significantly less interesting. And, when Levin came to his epiphany in the movie, it would have been lost by everyone who hadn’t read the book because it was the only time it was mentioned in the movie, so a lot of his personal growth got lost.
- love was the main focus of the movie. I don’t think love/jealousy was necessarily the breaking point of certain characters in the novel, although it was made out to be in the movie. There are so many other themes and complex motifs in the novel that either would not have translated well or that the directors and producers just did not attempt with this movie.
Have you seen the movie? What do you think?