Joe Wright, who directed Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, directs her again in his controversial version of ANNA KARENINA, (2012), now streaming on Netflix (Wright and Knightley are shown below).
The story of the tragedian who throws herself in front of a train for love is as familiar a tragedy as Romeo and Juliet. Anna's story has been told and retold in ballet, opera, and in a dozen screen versions.
Wright, armed with a new screenplay by the eminent Tom Stoppard, scouted sites in Russia and England and found himself resisting the lure of another mannered period drama.
Seamus McGarvey's camera maneuver among sets and props, equipment grinding as scenes unfold rapidly within the confines of the theater. If this is not your beloved "Anna Karenina", never mind; it's a stunning visual and dramatic coup that triumphs on its own --an opera ballet crossed with a stage play packaged in film.
The storyline breathes easily through Wright's theater device, but he did slip up with some characters. Vronsky here is callow and cruel while exquisite Anna becomes her own version of unlikeable. This is not Tolstoy's Anna and Vronsky, rather the director assigning them blame for their plight. In fact the Vronsky of the novel, light-weight though he may be, is not cruel to his race horse or his lover. He does nothing to drive Anna off, rather he loves, sacrifices, and tries to protect her from the cruelty of their social set.