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Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)

September 23, 2012

For most of its running time, Joe Wright’s version of Anna Karenina takes place within interior confines, with nearly every scene occurring on a set of noticeable stages. There are no attempts to disguise the artificiality of the film’s appearance: clear models and miniatures are heavily used, and there are even moments where the viewer can see the extras in a long, unbroken take re-arranging the contents of one set so as to transform it into another. Joe Wright has so far been one of the more interesting directors to heavily dabble in period drama, and Anna Karenina sees a sharpening of his increasingly trademark long takes that previously felt overly showy at times, alongside a carrying over of the visual and aural creativity of his brilliant action effort Hanna.

Wright’s film doesn’t just take notes from theatre, with influences from dance and painting also on display. A studio-bound period drama with so many artistic reference points and vibrant editing can’t help but initiate memories of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, especially so when Matthew Macfadyen almost seems to be channelling Jim Broadbent’s performance in that film, and when there are similarly so many lines heavy with utterance of that abstract idea “love”. While both films have this very polarising, slightly similar style, Wright’s film is certainly far less abrasive and more easily accessible even when heightening its artifice. If one manages to be tuned in with its approach, the results of the aesthetic are often quite extraordinary…

Full review at Sound on Sight
Repost of review for North American release (November 2012)

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