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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 18, 2018 


Leo Tolstoy’s tale of love and morality in high places (in pre-revolution Russia) follows the doomed romance between the beautiful Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky. Anna sacrifices her position as highly placed social wife and mother to follow her heart to Vronksy, shocking Russian society in the process. Their liaison is contrasted with the romance and marriage of two of their friends, Levin and Kitty, who find increasing happiness and fulfilment over time.

"This third screen version of Tolstoy’s novel is a visual feast, with breathtakingly beautiful settings, stunning cinematography and a sensitive performance from the beautiful and talented Sophie Marceau. Marceau brings a warm sensuality to the title role, previously played by Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh in 1935 and 1948 respectively and James Fox gives a satisfying performance as the jealous husband. But sadly there is much about the film that leaves me dissatisfied and frustrated - namely the lack of development in both Vronsky’s character and the ill-fated love affair. Somehow Vronsky’s charms are none too apparent. Why the delectable Marceau is so smitten by and sacrifices everything for him is never satisfactorily explained emotionally. The script seems to be trying so hard to fit the entire novel into the screenplay that the jumps in time and place appear disjointed. The varied accents of origin from the cast, together with occasional Russian language dialogue (subtitled), create a lack of unity to the production, and divide, rather than unite it."
Louise Keller

"I agree with Louise - almost entirely; perhaps the Garbo version (which I saw but not in the year of its production, I hasten to say) spoilt me. Yes, Marceau is gorgeous and effective, but after Garbo’s fabulous screen mystique, nobody can be Anna K for me again. Silly old sausage aren’t I? Or is it something more? You decide. As for this film, I can understand Bernard Rose’s earnest intent with the novel, but I am surprised that Mel Gibson and Brian Davies of Icon Productions (who put up/found the money) didn’t exercise more stringency. In particular, I found the jump cut from hesitant Anna to naked lover far too abrupt: we had to assume too much, rather like intercourse without foreplay. Likewise with the marriage of Levin and Kitty, which comes on us like a badly subbed feature in a woman’s magazine. Worst of all, for me, Sean Bean and Sophie Marceau don’t have the screen chemistry to explain any of the enormous passions; Bean, good as he is, is the wrong type, anyway. Sorry, darlings, but this just LOOKS wonderful."
Andrew L. Urban

This lavish remake of Tolstoy's classic novel is the first American version to be filmed in Russia. Like its predecessors, it focuses more on the romantic and tragic aspects of the story and ignores the political and philosophical undertones of the original. And unlike previous film incarnations of the rambling tale, this version is flimsier than most, adopting a contemporary Mills and Boone approach with very under-developed black and white characters, instead of flashes of grey. Tolstoy is a complex writer, and his Anna Karenina remains a fascinating and deeply tragic work with mighty philosophical undertones enhancing its narrative. It's a novel that lends itself effectively to more in-depth cinematic treatment, and while Bernard Rose may be a fine visualist, his film is slight and predictable. Its other glaring weakness is the miscasting of France's Sophie Marceau in the title role. Apart from a French accent amidst the British voices around her, her performance is too thin and uninspiring to make us mildly interested in her plight. She's in fact emerges as an insufferable bore and her rendition is as superficial and simplistic as the film as a whole. Sean Bean's Vronsky is just as dull and wooden, while Alfred Molina is the film's only strength as the more philosophical Levin. Filmically, there are some strengths amidst the ruins of this production, such as the superb cinematography and production design, which do capture the upper echelons of 19th century Russian society quite beautifully. But it's all on the surface, as the film dawdles its way through an adaptation of a masterful book, which never comes close in being truthful to the original work.
Paul Fischer

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James Fox and Sophie Marceau

"Marceau is gorgeous and effective.."

Sean Bean as Alexei Vronski

Alfred Molina as Lenin



CAST: Sophie Marceau, Sean Bean, Alfred Molina, Mia Kirshner, James Fox, Danny Huston, Saskia Wickham, Fiona Shaw

DIRECTOR: Bernard Rose

PRODUCER: Bruce Davey

SCRIPT: Bernard Rose (Story by Count Leo Tolstoy)


EDITOR: Victor du Bois

MUSIC: Sir Georg Solti


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes





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