All the world's a stage for the latest film version of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."
The two-hour drama takes place mostly on a stage, and in the audience and the fly-space of a period 1870s proscenium theater. The conceit works as one of the only places capable of capturing the scope of the Russian classic. The meta-filmic technique also includes visible mise-en-scène and promenade-style staging including a bureaucratic version of a sports stadium wave.
Tom Stoppard's incisive interpretation of the text also flows seamlessly among the "love vs. appetite" stories, from Anna (toothy Keira Knightly) and Karenin (dour, bearded Jude Law) and Vronsky (dashing, piercing blue-eyed Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and their children, between Levin (ginger Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (pixie Alicia Vikander), and Oblonsky (mustachioed Matthew Macfadyen) and all his ladies, plus devotion to the homeland as well as love of "the home" and "the land."
Vronsky's Countess mother (Olivia Williams) sets the adultery in motion by sharing she would "rather end up wishing I hadn't, than wishing I had." Those trapped by its power lament inconvenient "romantic love, the last illusion of the old order;" and Anna post-coitally characterizes happiness as murder in bed. She admits she's a bad woman, yet she can't breathe. The young in love "are surrounded by a blue mist," and the women chafe under "laws made by barbarians and fathers."
Proper society would perhaps allow Anna's adultery, but they won't forgive that she broke their other rules, echoing the novel's biblical epigraph: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay."
The bonus Blu-ray features include "'Anna Karenina:' An Epic Story About Love," "'Anna Karenina:' Time Lapse Photography," "Adapting Tolstoy," "Keira as Anna," "Dressing Anna" (the costumes are breathtaking), "On Set with Director Joe Wright," and feature commentary with Wright.
Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack