Stun­ning twist on a clas­sic

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch

ANNA KAREN­INA ( M)

★★★★ Di­rec­tor: Joe Wright ( Atone­ment) Stars: Keira Knight­ley, Aaron John­son, Jude Law, Ali­cia Vikan­der, Matthew Mac­fadyen Now show­ing: State and Vil­lage ( East­lands) cinemas

Turn the page, then turn the stage PSSSST! Know any­one who’s al­ways com­plain­ing that all cos­tume dra­mas are the same? Then sim­ply point them at this ma­jes­ti­cally un­con­ven­tional new ver­sion of the oft- adapted Leo Tol­stoy novel Anna Karen­ina.

There. That should shut them up for quite some time to come. All the world is a stage in the new Anna

Karen­ina. Lit­er­ally so. How so? The bulk of the film takes place in­side a lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed old the­atre. All of the at­mo­spheric lo­ca­tions can­vassed by Tol­stoy, which swept the length of 19th cen­tury Rus­sia, are still up there on the screen.

But through a com­bi­na­tion of clev­erly de­signed in­ter­change­able sets and some highly in­no­va­tive sleight- of- cam­era, the ac­tion never really leaves the the­atre.

Di­rec­tor Joe Wright is mak­ing a sim­ple point with this de­vice, but it is nev­er­the­less apt. To be part of Rus­sian high so­ci­ety at the time de­picted in this was to agree to play a role in an elab­o­rate show.

As long as ev­ery­body stuck to the script, ev­ery­body was free to do as they please.

Of course, the drama sur­round­ing the ti­tle char­ac­ter here – played by a well- cast Keira Knight­ley, pic­tured – be­gins when she de­parts from that script and be­gins act­ing out her own story.

The moment, the mar­ried and mis­er­able Anna, casts eyes on the sin­gle and hand­some Vron­sky ( Aaron John­son), she just has to be near him.

While her hus­band Alexei ( Jude Law), a dull and pre- oc­cu­pied no­ble­man, takes an eternity to no­tice Anna’s ob­vi­ous in­dis­cre­tion, the af­fair soon be­comes the hottest gossip in Moscow.

The tongues just keep on wag­ging, the fin­gers just keep on point­ing, and Anna and Vron­sky just keep on set­ting each other aflame. Things can only end with ev­ery­one in­volved get­ting burnt.

If you can go with the grandiose flow of the di­rec­tor’s unique vi­sion for this take on Tol­stoy’s tale, it is hard not to be wowed by what tran­spires. How­ever, some view­ers – par­tic­u­larly those of a pu­ri­tan­i­cal lit­er­ary bent – are sure to be ir­ri­tated by what they con­sider to be lit­tle more than a self- in­dul­gent gim­mick.

It will only take a few min­utes to work out where you stand on this Anna Karen­ina.

If you don’t like Wright and his team are up to, a long and an­noy­ing two hours awaits.

Per­for­mances are uni­formly ex­cel­lent, with Knight­ley do­ing some of the best work of her ca­reer as the angst- rid­den, amorous Anna.

Among a top- flight sup­port cast, Matthew Mac­Fadyen and Ali­cia Vikan­der ( play­ing Anna’s very dif­fer­ent sib­lings) are stand­outs, as is an un­der- stated Jude Law.

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