Monday, January 4, 2016

Anna Karenina

I had only seen Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean and therefore did not know she could act. Turns out, in this title rôle, she pretty much could, as she led the classic tale everyone knows except yours truly, who had a relatively experimental education in 1970s Berkeley, CA, and never had to read any classics. I had no idea therefore that Alexei Karenin was a cold and emotionless creature. I only knew he never smiled, and was shockingly permissive for a man (much less an important Russian man) of the 1870s. I was particularly interested when he forgave Vronsky for his affair with his wife while they both wept over her ailing body. It was the same moment experienced by modern husbands when their intention towards polyamory is suddenly thrust out of book theory and into practice. The recurring theme of marital love encompassing and forgiving extra-marital love is a very modern theme, and ties the timeless Christian intention of unconditional love to its modern counterpart in blended and extended families. Of course, Karenin was no modern, and when the price of their sin caught up with them, he returned to an unforgiving propriety, and neither Anna nor her dashing lover reaped more than ashes.

The truest star in this film was in the setting. The entire film took place in a sort of extended stage set, as though performed in a great theater that for all its grandeur could not contain it. Scenes were shifted as actors moved, stage lights flared, and action moved into the shops and flyspaces. It was truly a delight to watch.

Keira Knightley acts as though glancing prettily over her shoulder
Anna Karenina, 2012; Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

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