Anna Karenina 2012 (R)

This is a highly surrealistic adaptation of the novel by Leo Tolstoy.  It is comprised of richly artistic cinematography where one scene flows into the other through constant motion of actors and sets.  The producer said that all of the scenes were shot in a theater because the characters are constantly pretending to be something they are not.  This modern version of the classic Russian love story is quite different from all of the others that have preceded it.  It is quite beautiful to watch, but it has not lost the basic elements of a classical tragedy or moral play where a woman who has everything self-destructs due to adultery.  The filmmakers must have spent a fortune on costumes and sets, as they are a feast for the eye to behold. 

The movie cannot be held strictly accountable for historical accuracy because it does not claim to be a purely historical film.  The costumes for example, were deliberately a mix of 1870’s and 1950’s high fashion.  None of the actors look particularly Russian, and English accents prevail.  In actuality, the Russian Court in that era would have still spoken some German, French and only used Russian in its dealings with commoners.  That is not to say that the film is without historical value, however.  There are some interesting comments by characters that allude to the abolition of serfdom, and foreshadowings of the revolution to come.  One does get the feeling that the nobility were a group of spoiled brats that were completely disconnected from the world of the everyday working man around them.  Since the key drama from the film is the subject of adultery, it is no surprise that the film has sexual content, but it is not graphically portrayed.  There is also some shocking violence interspersed in the scenes to make a point about the life of the common man.  The constant motion may be distracting to some people, and the story may be hard to follow.  A lot of pre-teaching would be necessary to set the stage for the historical context of the story.  All in all, I think the film would be better used in a literature class than in a history course.

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