Anna Karenina 2012: A Deep Dive into the Historical Romantic Drama

Anna Karenina 2012: A Deep Dive into the Historical Romantic Drama
Anna Karenina 2012: A Deep Dive into the Historical Romantic Drama

Anna Karenina is a 2012 historical romantic drama film. The film is an adaptation of  Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel of the same name. Anna Karenina follows the tragic love story of Anna Karenina, a Russian aristocrat and wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with cavalry officer Count Vronsky. 

The film is set in late 19th-century Russia and had multiple release dates in the United Kingdom on 7 September 2012 and on 9 November 2012 in the United States. The movie proved to be a huge success earning numerous nominations and awards. Becoming culturally significant as one of the best book-to-film adaptations. 

Anna Karenina Tells A Story Of Infidelity

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina tells a tale of the power of love and tragedy while illuminating the lavish society that was imperial Russia. It tells the story of Anna Karenina the wife of Count Alexei Karenin, a high-ranking government official, and her adulterous affair with Count Vronsky. The story begins with Anna Karenina and her family taking a trip from Saint Petersburg to Moscow to save her brother’s-Prince Stephan Stiva Oblonsky- marriage, who has been cheating on his wife, Dolly. Anna meets Vronsky at the train station and they are instantly attracted to each other.  It all gets tricky when Stiva meets his old friend Konstantin Levin, a wealthy landowner and aristocrat. 

Levin confesses to Stiva that he loves his sister-in-law, Princess Kitty Alexandrovna, and Stiva encourages him to propose. However, Kitty declines because she only has eyes for Count Alexei Vronsky. At a ball, Kitty tries to dance with Vronsky, who spends the evening with Anna.  It isn’t long after that rumours of Anna and Vronsky’s affair begin to spread. Eventually, her husband finds out. Anna promises discretion for the sake of her young son, Seryozha but eventually becomes pregnant by Vronsky.

Karenin wants to divorce Anna and tells Stiva and Dolly, and they beg him to forgive her, but he refuses. He eventually takes Anna back when she almost lost her life during premature labour. After the birth of his daughter, Anya, Vronsky persuades Anna to change her mind and they all leave for Italy together. But Anna travels back to Saint Petersburg for Seryozha’s birthday. How the tables turned when Anna begins to suspect Vronsky of infidelity. In desperation she goes to the train station, and purchases a ticket to Moscow, Arriving in Moscow, Anna makes a rash decision which ends with her jumping in front of an oncoming train.

Anna Karenina Features Brilliant Performances From Its Lead Actors

Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

The film featured several A-list actors who brought their sense of dramatic poise and theatrical nuances to our screens. Anna Arkadievna Karenina portrayed by Keira Knightley is the primary protagonist of the novel. She is the wife of Alexey Karenin and the lover of Count Vronsky. The experienced knight of the Order of Arts and Letters himself,  Jude Law played the role of Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a senior statesman and the husband of Anna Karenina.

Calvary officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky Anna Karenina’s lover and a member of the Russian military is portrayed by famous English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Matthew Macfadyen plays the role of Prince Stepan Stiva Oblonsky, Anna’s brother and Dolly’s husband. Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald played Princess Darya Dolly Oblonskaya, Stiva’s wife. 

The Film Explores A Range of Themes 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Alicia Vikander in Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina explores a number of themes and symbols. One of which is the theme of marriage and family life. Anna Karenina portrays family life as a source of comfort, and happiness, and explores the complications of marriage and family life. 

The three central family units in the novel are the Oblonskys, the Karenins, and the Levins. Each of them depicts the imperfections that are present in a marriage and the effects it has on the family. Notably, each family had a scandal of their own but ended differently. Beginning with the Oblonskys who later reconciled thanks to the intervention of the Karenins. Followed by The Karenins with Anna who destroyed her family and died in misery. Whereas Levin creates a family although it doesn’t seem would happen at first but he couldn’t let Kitty go and they reunite and conclude the novel happily.

The film also symbolized the social change that occurred in 19th-century Russia. Anna Karenina depicts the struggles of late 19th-century Russia between the old patriarchal ways and the new, liberal, or freethinking ways that imitate the Westerners. The old-timer conservatives believe in traditions like authoritarian government, while the Westernizing liberals believe in technology, rationalism, and democracy. We see this clash in Levin’s difficulty with his peasants, who, refusing to accept the Western agricultural innovations he tries to introduce, believe that the old Russian ways of farming are the best. 

Historical Context of The Story 

Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander in Anna Karenina

It is important to note that the Russian Revolution came only a few decades after Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina. The story is set in late 19th-century Russia. It was a period when the country was known as Imperial Russia. The film depicted the period when Russia was not only dealing with huge economic and political issues. But also trying to catch up with Western countries who were beginning to democratize while they were still an empire run by an all-powerful Czar.

During this period Russia’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy nobles. However, the vast majority of Russians were peasants who had been using the same farming techniques for hundreds of years. Potential reformers like Levin often ran into trouble trying to teach the peasants new ways to farm. 

Comparison To The Original Novel And Other Adaptations

Jude Law in Anna Karenina

Before Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of  Anna Karenina in 2012, there have been several other adaptations over the last century. One of the most famous and probably the most celebrated of Tolstoy’s novels in Russia is Alexander Zarkhi’s 1967 Russian version of Anna Karenina. A major difference is that the film starred some of the most popular Soviet actors at the time. The soundtrack for the film was written by a famous Russian composer Rodion Schedrin. In 1985, there was a U.S. TV movie version of the novel that starred famous superman Christopher Reeve and Jacqueline Bisset. There were also multiple ballets and theatre adaptations.

Despite being depicted as the protagonist of the novel in the 2012 film adaptation, Anna is one of two protagonists in the book. Half of the book also tells the tale of Konstantin Levin. But his role is downplayed in Stoppard’s adaptation.  

It Had Positive Reviews And Ratings

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

The film mostly received positive reviews. However, some criticized the idea of setting most of the action on a theatre stage. The 2012 film adaptation received a  63% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a 6.6 out of 10 on IMDb. The film also earned four nominations at the 85th Academy Awards and six nominations at the 66th British Academy Film Awards and won the category for Best Costume Design. Tom Stoppard’s Anna Karenina also earned six nominations at the 17th Satellite Awards, and also earned a worldwide gross of about $69 million. 

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