UK, 1997, 130 minutes, Colour.
Sophie Marceau, Sean Bean, James Fox, Alfred Molina.
Directed by Bernard Rose.
Garbo, Vivien Leigh and Jacqueline Bissett have all been screen Anna Kareninas. Now Sophie Marceau (D'Artagnan's Daughter, Braveheart) has her turn in portraying one of the most vividly written women in all of literature, in Tolstoy's masterpiece. She is a very passive actress and is not always persuasive.
This is a visually sumptuous production, using Moscow and St Petersburg locations and palaces, beautifully costumed and using the music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokoffiev.
The core of Tolstoy's novel is on screen but at 108 minutes, it is often a sketch of the novel. Alfred Molina appears as Levin, the Tolstoy character who comments on the plot and issues and on his own moral search. Sean Bean has some impact as Vronsky and James Fox is convincing as Karenin. Sumptuous if slight interpretation.
1. The popularity of Leo Tolstoy, his novels, film versions? Issues and depth?
2. The screen tradition of Anna Karenina and the actresses who have portrayed her?
3. A version for the '90s? Bernard Rose and the young director's reading of an unknown novel? The excitement of reading it and adapting it? The possibility of Russian locations, the St Petersburg palaces? The international cast? The overall effect of his treatment - the Reader's Digest approach?
4. Re-creation of the period, the Russian landscapes, the aristocracy and their lifestyle, affluence and culture? Changing 19th century styles, morals and hypocrisy? Pre-Revolution? Russia?
5. The look and sound of the film: elegance and style, costumes and decor, the Tchaikovsky music? The range of styles from the opening nightmare and the wolves to the long walks through long and extended hallways? Ballroom scenes?
6. Tolstoy's basic plot, the age-old questions of love and fidelity?
7. Sophie Marceau as Anna? French accent, the pouting look, her marriage, the background of her life, her relationship with Stiva? The family's expectations of her, the marriage and the lifestyle within the marriage? Her love for her son and care for him - and the later pain of being separated from him? Coming to Moscow, with Stiva, meeting Vronsky, the dance and the infatuation? The change, his declaration of love to her? Their being together, the affair, deceit? The discovery by Karenin, his confrontation of her, his harsh stances, her reaction? Impossible to give up Vronsky? Pregnant and the miscarriage? Going to Italy, the isolation, the idyll and romanticism yet her loneliness? The return, waiting for the divorce, her becoming possessive and suspicious, taking the opium? Her being hurt? Vronsky and his going out, Cavalier, her fear of his leaving her? The memory of the accident at the railway station, her despair and killing herself? The portrait of Anna?
8. Vronsky and his military background, family, friendship with Stiva? Entree into people's homes? The dominance of his mother? The dashing cavalier? His relationship with Kitty and her infatuation? The discussions with Levin about spiritualism and materialism? The meeting with Anna, the dance, the beginning of the affair? His declaration of love? The miscarriage, going to Italy? His isolation, Anna and her possessiveness? The return to Russia, his freedom, rakish background, fellowship with the soldiers? Status in society? His response to Anna's death? The callow man and tragedy striking him?
9. The contrast with Karenin and his age and experience, severity, his high moral standards and expectations? His love for Anna, the love for his son? His response to the affair, his being hurt? His having to cope? The change after his initial harsh reactions? Advice, care for Anna? His response to her death?
10. The story of Levin and Kitty as background for the story of Vronsky and Anna? The opening with the wolves pursuing Levin? Levin and his background, the farm? Friendship with Stiva, his infatuation with Kitty? The discussion with Vronsky about philosophy of life? His disappointment with Kitty, going back to the farm? The link with the land, grounded? His proposal to Kitty, her acceptance? The happiness of the marriage, her pregnancy and the child? His struggles and his success? His final words to Vronsky and his perceptiveness, a depth of philosophy of life?
11. Kitty and her family background, her relationship with her brother, the meeting with Vronsky? Her infatuation with him, her disappointment with his response to Anna? Wealthy background, refusal of Levin's proposal, the change of heart, marrying Levin, the child? Her place in society? The contrast with Anna?
12. The portrait of Russian aristocrats and families, their affluence, their standards and expectations, their behaviour? The challenge to this complacent way of life?
13. Anna and her suicide and its dramatic impact? The preparation with the accidental death at the station, her despair, depression - and the audience understanding her dilemmas?
14. Audience response to Tolstoy's basic outline of story and characters? The attempt by Levin to give something of a depth of meaning to Tolstoy's insights?