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Anna Karenina: Keira Knightley is literature's tragic heroine (+video)

Anna Karenia: When 'Anna Karenina' – starring Keira Knightley – gets a theatrical turn, curtains and catwalks make it a little arch.

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Thomas Mann, in an essay on “Anna Karenina,” wrote that “Tolstoy loves Anna very much, one feels that. The book bears her name; it could bear no other.” One of the many, many things wrong with Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” starring Keira Knightley as literature’s most famous adulteress – take that, Emma Bovary! – is that one never feels the love. It’s a conceit in search of a movie. It could just as easily have been titled “Décor.”

The conceit is that old chestnut: All the world’s a stage. Wright, alas, takes it literally. Most of the action takes place in theatrical settings with painted backdrops. Military banquets and balls, intimate encounters, even steeplechase races, are all given the proscenium treatment.

Passionlessly married for nine years to the ramrod imperial minister Karenin (a distinctly undashing Jude Law), Anna allows herself to be seduced by the handsome cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Closed off from her 8-year-old son (Oskar McNamara) and unsparing husband and ostracized by the tongue-wagging aristocracies of St. Petersburg, Anna becomes increasingly isolated, even from Vronsky.

It was this isolation, I suppose, that prompted Wright to position so many of Anna’s scenes alongside drop curtains and catwalks. By contrast, the sequences involving Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), the gentleman farmer whose marriage to pretty princess Kitty (Alicia Vikander) represents the triumphal amorous counterweight to Anna’s rue, are mostly opened up.

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