Anna Karenina (2001 - Materpiece Theater)

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Anna Karenina (2001 - Materpiece Theater)

Post by Thunder » Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:36 pm

Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the faithfulness of this movie adaptation to the novel, as it's been so long I barely remember it, so I will only comment on the movie itself. The movie is engaging, well acted & for the most part, well filmed. It kept my attention throughout the 2 disks that it spans, but I’m not sure if it’s because I was interested in the characters & story, or if it was because I was always anticipating something that seems missing.

The movie centers on Anna Karenina, a self-centered prima donna who spends most of her time hurting those closest around her to feed her own ego. The movie opens with her a married woman of 10 years with one child. Her husband, Alexi, is a successful man with a high position in the government, wealthy, well respected, kind, & self-possessed. To Anna, this translates into boring, cruel, unloving, & cold because she is, after all, a prima donna who only cares about herself. On a trip to help mend relations between her adulterous brother & sister-in-law, she meets a dashing young man named Count Vronsky at a social dance. It is generally accepted that he has been courting a girl named Kitty, but once he meets Anna, he only has eyes for her (who knew it could happen so fast?). To her credit, once she realizes how inappropriately she is behaving at the dance and that she has in fact hurt Kitty’s feelings, she immediately leaves the party, packs the next morning, and leaves town to return home to her husband. As she disembarks and meets her husband, the Count pops up behind her and boldly requests to visit the family. It’s at this point the audience realizes he is also a self-centered prima donna who needs to feed his ego at all costs and the ultimate outcome of these two is now predictable.

The rest of the movie seems to merely chronicle one inappropriate, hurtful behavior after another, with glimpses into her self-serving ego. When she first makes love to the Count, in the scene immediately after she tells him that she no longer has anyone except him & he needs to remember that, as if it’s some great honorable sacrifice on her part, yet his entire fault that she made the decision to go to his house. After the husband finds out about the affair, when some of the consequences of her actions and decisions are becoming apparent, she demands her husband to forgive her. She constantly states that he must forgive her, as if he is purposefully withholding forgiveness. She never apologizes or acknowledges what she did wrong, nor does she intend to change her behavior. What she is actually asking for is the approval of her husband, and yet I feel the film wants the audience to feel sorry for her. By the end of the first disk, I was both disgusted with & hateful of this manipulative woman. Five minutes into the second, I was actively hoping she would die.

There is some discussion about the story highlighting the double standard of adultery in this society; the male adulterers are basically given a free pass & Anna becomes a social outcast. I think this is quite a bit unfair to the people of the time (based on the movie). The movie makes it abundantly clear that most of the people are having affairs, including the women. It’s not the men who are holding a double standard, it’s the women. The women hold the parties & make the arrangements, and they are the ones who don’t want to be seen with her. It’s not simply that she is having an affair, it’s the way she is going about it. She is flamboyant, obvious, & unrepentant. She makes no attempt to show any consideration for her husband, child, or friends. Her husband has never committed adultery and by all accounts takes his marriage vows seriously, and yet she insists on treating him with absolute contempt & disrespect. It’s no wonder they don’t wish to associate with her any longer – they are simultaneously embarrassed for her inappropriate behavior and righteously angry at her on behalf of her husband.

Other characters in the movie seem to merely be filler. There are huge time jumps between some scenes, so that you are left wondering what happened to the characters in the intervening time. I suspect the book delves more into these characters, but as for the movie, they could have simply been cut out altogether except where they intersect Anna’s life.

Overall, if you like to watch someone ruin their life & the lives of those around them through their own egotistical greed, then this is a great film for you. If, like me, you find these people are worthless wastes of time, then you should skip it.

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