I had an interesting conversation about Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” both of us complaining that while reading it, we’ve complained that we learned so much about agriculture and geography and horses but not about the anti-heroine herself. Like why title the book about a character who isn’t really your book’s subject? Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of the doorstop ‘tightens’ the material he has by turning quasi-fictional 19th century into a stage. Because symbolically, the characters have deeply involved themselves into affectation so much that they might as well be acting. Mind you, I liked the movie, but choosing more claustrophobic mises en scene also gives a disservice to the expansive landscapes that Tolstoy articulates. The aristocratic Russian culture of vacations, country life and hunting are all gone! I had the same problems with the film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Southern fields of my imagination squashed within a cramped studio.
But this also means, and this would be the case with other as well as most big-screen adaptations I assume, are as focused, inadvertently making the material they have to be a character study/actress vehicle. Again, the movie is the opposite of the book. In the novel, we read about the work of Dolly (Kelly MacDonald) her husband Stiva (Matthew McFayden), his brother-in-law Levin (Domhall Gleeson) and his wife Kitty (Alicia Vikander), Anna becoming this ghostly figure of gossip. In the film, these supporting characters are yes, sadly, gender stereotypes, but while they are forced to retreat the ghost comes full centre, as well as the underrated actress who plays her.
Read my fresher thoughts on Anna Karenina here on Entertainment Maven.