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"Anna Karenina", Directed by Joe Wright, a Focus Features Release, Premieres
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"Anna Karenina", Directed by Joe Wright, a Focus Features Release, Premieres

- Backstage with the Filmmakers

Salon Ziba

200 West 57th Street
New York, NY
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Anna Karenina
(Film Website)

Directed by Joe Wright
Screenplay by Tom Stoppard
Based on the Novel by Leo Tolstoy

A Focus Features Release
Broadway Screening Room
1619 Broadway, 5th Floor
NY, NY 10019

Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina)
Jude Law (Karenin)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Vronsky)
Kelly MacDonald (Dolly)
Matthew MacFadyen (Oblonsky)
Domhnall Gleeson (Levin)
Ruth Wilson (Princess Betsy Tverskoy)
Alicia Vikander (Kitty)
Olivia Williams (Countess Vronsky)
Emily Watson (Countess Lydia Ivanova)

Focus Features Press: Gianluca Lignola, VJ Carbone
ID PR: Olivia Fischetti, Sara Serlen

Other Filmmakers:

Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Producers
Paul Webster, Producer
Seamus McGarvey, Director of Photography
Sarah Greenwood, Production Designer
Melanie Ann Oliver, Editor
Jacqueline Durran, Costume Designer
Ivana Primorac, Hair and Makeup Designer
Dario Marianelli, Music
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Choreographer

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 15, 2012

Joe Wright’s mesmerizing new film, “Anna Karenina”, is pure artistry. The film’s motion is fully choreographic, even in non-dance scenes. The characters are acutely in surreal bearing, with studied freezes, like ballet. In fact, this “Anna Karenina” possessed similar stark elements reviewed in Eifman’s Russian ballet, “Anna Karenina”. Not to belabor the plot, it revolves around lust, betrayal, revenge, motherhood, generosity, self-discovery, nurturing, and societal restrictions. Throughout this magnificent, spell-binding film, Dario Marianelli’s score hints at erotic, intoxicating tango, bucolic Russian fields, high society waltzes, operatic purity, and propulsive heartbeats. Tom Stoppard’s screenplay develops the maternal persona of Anna, the longing of her abandoned and isolated, young son, her angst-filled, conflicted soul, the dichotomy of duty and destiny. Tolstoy’s novel beckons for more depth, but Stoppard’s screenplay beckons for an encore. Already, I cannot wait to see this film again.

Keira Knightley, as Anna, signals the viewer that her heart stopped, when, after a dreary mundane scene with her husband, Karenin (Jude Law), she first views Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Music and literary metaphors merge with stunning force. Whether Ms. Knightley stands at snow-swept trains, steely eyes peering through black, embroidered veil, or whether she falls into lust with the magnetic Vronsky, glimpsed through fragmented visual frames, she sears the memory with her fiery femininity. Mr. Law, as Karenin, is neatly bearded, with tiny spectacles, starched posture, and defined menace. He sees his wife as a possession, tells her when to come to bed, reacts to her rejection and departure with the fear of God and the law. He announces that she will be essentially dead, a woman alone, unable to re-wed, motherless, destitute, destroyed. Their contrasting strong wills make for percussive emotional choreography. Mr. Taylor-Thomas, as the opportunistic, impetuous Vronsky, exudes intensity, but with dash and ardor. Vronsky plucks the more mature Anna, as if she were a late summer rose. His equestrian race scene revealed his obsessive and cruel nature, as his horse’s fate foretold the unstoppable fate of his lover.

Matthew MacFadyen, as Anna’s adulterous brother Oblonsky, who sends for her in St. Petersburg to help him in Moscow, plays the role with wild relish. It’s on the train to Moscow that Anna meets Countess Vronsky (Olivia Williams), who is met by her cavalry son at the station. Also in Moscow Anna meets Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), Oblonsky’s friend, a man of the earth, who longs to wed Kitty (Alicia Vikander), a sister of Oblonsky’s wife Dolly (Kelly MacDonald). Three significant scenes in wondrous and deliberate languor shape the timeline of Levin and Kitty’s togetherness. An abrupt ball scene, a silent game of alphabet blocks, a poignant scene of Kitty nursing Levin’s ill brother. Each scene vividly illustrates Kitty and Levin’s mutual purity, as natural as their pristine environment. Numerous additional characters fill the screen with shrewd aestheticism.

Mr. Wright has taken this tale to the theatre, with characters wandering in ropes and beams in the rafters, in the orchestra pit, onstage, backstage, and beyond. The metaphor heightens and expands the melodrama. He has characters shift the weight of psychic intensity from swift to gradual. Mr. Marianelli’s sumptuous score always matches and magnifies these images. Seamus McGarvey, Director of Photography, brilliantly weaves close-up portraits of newborn babies, wildflower fields, catapulting horses, waltz dervish, ice-covered lakes, fox fur accessories, the washing of a patient’s foot, the placement of an alphabet block, the shutdown of Anna’s son’s door, the steel railroad machinery, the fine threads on the veil. Jacqueline Durran’s costumes will bring me back to the film soon, as some exude miles of satin, ribbon, and pearls. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography, as well, must be seen again for the slightest lifting of a hand to beckon a waltz partner, to elegant ballroom lifts above the throng, to a contemporary gesture of encircling arms.

Kudos to all, and kudos to Leo Tolstoy.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
in Focus Features' film, "Anna Karenina"
2012, Directed by Joe Wright
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at