Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina Information

Anna Karenina is a 2012 British epic romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright and adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel of the same name. The film depicts the tragedy of married Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role as Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright following Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Alexei Karenin and Vronsky, respectively.

Produced by Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal, the film premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. It was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and on 9 November 2012 in the United States. Anna Karenina earned a worldwide gross of approximately $56 million, mostly from its international run, which was considered a mediocre but decent commercial specialty success. It earned a rating of 63 percent from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, labelling it generally favorable. Critics praised the cast and commented on and criticized the heavily stylised adaptation, but were less enthusiastic with Wright's preference for style over substance and his idea of setting most of the action on a theatre stage.

It earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards, winning Jacqueline Durran both prizes for Best Costume Design. In addition, Anna Karenina garnered six nominations at the 17th Satellite Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Knightley and Best Adapted Screenplay for Stoppard.


In 1874 Imperial Russia, Prince Stepan "Stiva" Oblonsky's wife, Princess Daria "Dolly" catches him cheating on her with their governess. She banishes him from their home, forbidding him to see her or their five children. Stiva's sister, Anna Karenina, journeys to Moscow to convince Dolly to forgive him. Anna is a wealthy, well-liked socialite who lives in St. Petersburg with her elder statesman husband Alexei Karenin, and their son, Seryozha. Karenin allows her to leave but warns her about fixing the problems of others.

Meanwhile, Stiva meets his old friend Konstatin Dimitrivich Levin, a wealthy land owner in the country, who is looked down on by Moscow's elite because of his disinterest in living in the city. Levin professes his love to Stiva's sister-in-law, Katerina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatsky, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines, as she hopes to marry Count Alexei Vronsky, which would make her a wealthy countess socialite similar to Anna. Later, Levin meets up with his elder brother Nikolai, who has given up his inheritance for a poor life on vices. Nikolai lives with a prostitute named Masha whom he has taken as his wife and suggests to Levin that he should marry one of the peasants on his estate. Levin then returns to his country estate in Pokrovskoe.

On the train to Moscow, Anna meets Count Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya, a well-known adulteress. Once in Moscow, Anna meets up with Vronsky himself, and they have an immediate and mutual attraction. As they leave, a railroad worker is caught beneath the tracks and violently killed. To impress Anna, Vronsky gives money to the man's family.

Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty attempts to dance with Vronsky, but he prefers Anna over her. Their love and passion is noticed by everyone, including an upset Kitty; Anna decides to leave the ball, feeling she has upstaged Kitty. Anna boards a train to St. Petersburg, but at a rest stop notices Vronsky, who declares that he must be where she is at every moment. She tells him to go back to Moscow, but he refuses.

In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya, who is friends with the Karenins. He begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit; Anna is amused, but also ashamed as everyone notices their mutual attraction. During a party, Vronsky starts to flirt openly, which soon catches Karenin's attention; he suggests they go home, but Anna decides to stay. Vronsky threatens to take a promotion in another city but Anna asks him to stay. Later, Anna convinces her husband of her innocence. The following day, however, she and Vronsky meet at a hotel and make love.

Back at Levin's country estate, Stiva visits, where he tells Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer getting married. Still heartbroken, Levin decides to give up on love and instead focuses on living an authentic country life. He plows his fields with his workers and has thoughts of taking one of his workers' daughters as his wife, like his brother had suggested.

Karenin hears word that both his wife and her lover are in the country and decides to surprise her there at his country estate. Anna reveals to Vronsky that she is pregnant and she wishes to be "only his". She later encounters Karenin who suggests he join her for the horse races that evening, where they sit with the elite. Countess Vronskaya, having heard the rumors of her son and Anna, ignores Anna and focuses her attention to the young Princess Sorokina. The races begin, and Anna unintentionally admits her feelings for Vronsky publicly when his horse collapses and injures him. On their way home Anna confesses to Karenin that she is indeed Vronsky's mistress and wishes to divorce him. As divorce would mean public humiliation for all involved, Karinin refuses and instead confines her to their house.

Levin sees Kitty in a passing carriage, and returns to Moscow to ask for her hand once more. Anna, starting to show her pregnancy, receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg, and berates and curses him for not coming to her sooner. Vronsky, shocked at this new temper in Anna, replies only that he was doing his duties as an officer. Soon Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky has been visiting Anna though he was forbidden to do so. He searches her desk and finds love letters. With evidence of her infidelity, he intends to divorce her, keep their son, and drive her out into the street. Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty are reunited at the Oblonsky house. Karenin also arrives to give news that he is divorcing Anna, much to the dismay of Stiva and Dolly. Anna begs Karenin to forgive her, but Karenin has made up his mind, even though he still loves Anna. After the dinner, Levin and Kitty confess their love to each other and decide to marry.

Anna goes into premature labor. As she lies dying, she confesses her sins before God. Vronsky is at her side, and she berates him and tells him that he could never be the man Karenin is. Her husband, feeling ashamed at how he has treated Anna, begs for her forgiveness, which she grants him. The next day Vronsky leaves at the request of Karenin, who forms an attachment to Anna's baby, Anya, as if she was his child. Princess Betsy calls on Anna and discusses with her what will happen to Vronsky now that he has gone back to Moscow. Anna tells Betsy to tell Karenin everything as well. Later, Anna complains about having to hear about Vronsky wherever she goes. Karenin assures her that they could be happy again, but she only wants Vronsky. Karenin still does not agree to a divorce but releases Anna from her confinement. She and Vronsky soon leave for a trip to Italy with little Anya.

Levin and Kitty return to the country estate where everyone is enchanted with his new wife. The sick Nikolai and his wife are also nearby, seeking solitude. Having told Kitty about his brother's situation, Levin fears she will be outraged. However, Kitty dutifully asks that the two join them on the estate so she can nurse Nikolai. Levin realizes that she has indeed grown up, putting others' needs before her own.

Anna returns to St. Petersburg to see Serozha, but Karenin makes her leave after a short time. Anna also starts to believe that Vronsky is cheating on her. She later attends the opera, proclaiming that she is not ashamed of her actions. The attendees treat her with disgust, and she begins to understand that society will not accept her or Vronsky. She is humiliated, but retains her poise, just to break down once back at her hotel. Vronsky tries to settle her down by giving her laudanum. The next day Anna has lunch at a restaurant where the society women avoid her. Dolly joins her and tells her that Kitty is in Moscow to have her first child. Dolly explains that Stiva is the same, but that she has come to love him for who he is.

Later, Vronsky informs Anna that he must meet with his mother one last time to settle some accounts, but when Anna sees Princess Sorokina picking him up, she becomes very upset. She drinks more laudanum and goes by train to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother. One the way, she has hallucinations of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love, and laughing about her. At the last station, Anna yells out, "God forgive me!" as she jumps into the path of an oncoming train.

Levin, still shocked and amazed at Kitty's kind heart and willingness to help his brother, realizes that love, while immature in the beginning, can grow into something more beautiful and earnest. He starts to believe that fate is indeed the work of God, who has blessed him with a good wife and now with a son. He returns home to find Kitty bathing the child. He tells her that he just realized something. Kitty asks him what is, and Levin, cradling his boy, says that someday he will tell her. Oblonsky and his family eat with Levin and Kitty, and Oblonsky, looking weary and sad, goes outside, lights a cigarette and seems to be mourning his sister. Karenin is seen to be happily retired from public duties, with Serozha and young Anya playing nearby.




Joe Wright was hired to direct an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, his fourth collaboration with Working Title Films. Wright shot most of his film on a single soundstage at Shepperton Studios in a dilapidated theatre outside London. Italian composer Dario Marianelli composed the film score, while Jacqueline Durran served as the costume designer. Sarah Greenwood was in charge of production design. Wright has worked with all three in past productions, including on the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice. Further crew members include cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, editor Melanie Ann Oliver, and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

The cast include Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her young love, and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, Michelle Dockery, and Tannishtha Chatterjee. Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively. Ronan, stated that her reasoning behind turning down the role of Kitty was the film's long production schedule. It would have required her to turn down movie roles from Fall 2011 to late Spring 2012, in order to film what would have ended up as a supporting role. By turning down the role, she was able to take the lead roles in Byzantium and The Host. The Borgias star Holliday Grainger had a minor role as Baroness Shilton.

In July 2011, Keira Knightley began rehearsals, in preparation for principal filming which began later in 2011. Filming began in October 2011. The film was distributed by Focus Features in North America and by Universal Pictures International for international markets. The film was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and 9 November 2012 in the United States.

Critical reception

Upon its release, the film received positive reviews from critics, with some praising the cast " particularly Knightley " and the production design but criticizing the script and Wright's apparent preference for style over substance. The film received an average review score of 61 percent according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic reported an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 reviews and classified the film as "generally favorable".

Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist awarded the film a B+ and called the picture a "bold reimagining" of the classic novel, comparing Wright's vision to the films of Powell and Pressburger. He noted how Knightley "continues to go from strength to strength" and also praised Law as "excellent". Even though he speculated that "the film is going to divide people enormously", he concluded it was one to "cherish despite its flaws". Ian Freer of Empire awarded the film four stars out of five and was effervescent in his praise for Wright and the final result: he said "Anna Karenina militantly doesn't want to be just another costume drama; it attacks the heavyweight concerns of Russian literature (hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, the pastoral vs. the urban, huge moustaches) with wit and verve; most exciting of all, it is filmmaking of the highest order, channeling every other art form from painting to ballet to puppetry while remaining completely cinematic". He lauded the entire cast for their work yet concluded that "this is really its director's movie".

In The Observer Jason Solomons also called Knightley "superb", and declared that the film "works beautifully...[it is] elegant and exciting [and] ...incredibly cinematic". Leslie Felperin of Variety was more reserved in her praise for the film, observing that although Wright "knows how to get the best from Knightley" and noting that the film was technically "glorious", it was also "unmistakably chilly" in the storytelling. The Daily Mirror singled out Knightley as "excellent" and lauded Wright for "offer[ing] a fresh vision of the Tolstoy classic", concluding the picture to be "with its beautiful cinematography and costumes... a real success".

Others were less impressed with the film and Wright's take on such a classic text. The Hertfordshire Mercury conceded that "costumes and art direction are ravishing, and Seamus McGarvey's cinematography shimmers with rich colour", but ultimately found there to be "no obvious method behind this production design madness". Stella Papamichael of Digital Spy also awarded the picture only two stars out of five, commenting that "the third time isn't such a charm for director Joe Wright and muse Keira Knightley". Although she found the actress "luminous in the role" she criticised Wright for "outshining" his star and affecting the narrative momentum by "favouring a glossy look over probing insights into a complicated character". Neil Smith of Total Film also awarded the film two out of five stars, lamenting the fact that Wright's elaborate stage design "pull[s] the attention away from where it should be... [and] keeps [us] at arm's length, forever highlighting the smoke, mirrors and meticulous stage management that have been pressed into service to make his big idea a reality". He also dismissed Knightley's performance as "less involving" than her "similar" turn in The Duchess. Richard Brody of The New Yorker criticized Wright for diverging from Tolstoy, without adding anything beyond superficialities in return: "Wright, with flat and flavorless images of an utterly impersonal banality, takes Tolstoy's plot and translates it into a cinematic language that's the equivalent of, say, Danielle Steel, simultaneously simplistic and overdone."


List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards Best Original Score Dario Marianelli
Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Movie You Wanted to Love But Just Couldn't
Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
British Academy Film Awards Outstanding British Film Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard
Best Original Music Dario Marianelli
Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
Best Makeup and Hair Ivana Primorac
Critics' Choice Awards Best Art Direction Katie Spencer
Sarah Greenwood
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Dario Marianelli
Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Performer Domhnall Gleeson
Alicia Vikander
Hollywood Film Festival Hollywood Film Award for Production Designer of the Year Sarah Greenwood
Houston Film Critics Society Worst Film
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Production Design Sarah Greenwood rowspan="7"
Satellite Awards 2012 Best Actress " Motion Picture Keira Knightley
Best Adapted Screenplay Tom Stoppard
Best Art Direction and Production Design Thomas Brown
Nick Gottschalk
Sarah Greenwood
Niall Moroney
Tom Still
Best Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
Best Original Score Dario Marianelli

See also

  • Adaptations of Anna Karenina
  • 2012 in film

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