ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE A the­atri­cal ‘Anna Karen­ina’ movie

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Art - By John Bei­fuss

Di­rec­tor Joe Wright’s new ver­sion of “Anna Karen­ina” — at least the 13th film adap­ta­tion of the novel since 1914 — trans­forms Leo Tol­stoy’s 900-page doorstop of a 19th-cen­tury Rus­sian mas­ter­piece into some­thing that is in­tended to be play­ful and light on its feet, for all its heavy themes of adul­tery and dis­honor (not to men­tion the lit­eral weight of its lav­ish pe­riod cos­tumes).

Wright’s pre­vi­ous movies in­clude re­spect­ful and suc­cess­ful adap­ta­tions of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prej­u­dice,” a great book, and Ian McEwan’s “Atone­ment,” at least a good book. Those movies at­tempted to faith­fully re­pro­duce the vi­sions of the nov­els’ au­thors, but — per­haps be­cause “Karen­ina” has been dra­ma­tized so many times be­fore — the di­rec­tor takes an ex­per­i­men­tal and highly styl­ized ap­proach to Tol­stoy.

Most of the movie is staged in what ap­pears to be the in­te­rior of a seat­less the­ater, com­plete with cat­walks, scenic flats that can be raised and low­ered, painted cur­tain back­drops, and so on, to rep­re­sent the sa­lons, ball­rooms, tea rooms and other haunts of up­per-crust Moscow and St. Peters­burg. The be­hav­ior of the characters who in­habit this space is sim­i­larly stagy.

Un­like the up­com­ing Vic­tor Hugo adap­ta­tion, “Les Mis­er­ables,” “Anna Karen­ina” is no mu­si­cal, but the ac­tion of­ten is chore­ographed as if it

Keira Knight­ley is the tragic Tol­stoyan hero­ine in “Anna Karen­ina,” play­ing ex­clu­sively at the Ridge­way Four.

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