Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
The acclaimed star, who appeared in Oscar-winning drama The Reader, passed away on Wednesday (25Jul12).
A lawyer for her family, who confirmed her death, did not provide information about the cause of her tragedy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Lothar received four best actress nominations at the German Film Awards, the country's version of the Oscars, winning the accolade in 1983.
Her screen credits also include the Academy Award-nominated drama The White Ribbon, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, and The Piano Teacher.
She also appeared alongside her actor husband Ulrich Muhe in the 1997 psychological thriller Funny Games. Muhe, who starred in the Oscar-winning movie The Lives Of Others, lost his battle with stomach cancer in 2007, aged 54.
Lohar was filming the drama Inner Amok with director Peter Brunner at the time of her death.
Erika is a gifted pianist in her 40s who teaches at a prestigious music school in Vienna. But her private life is far from gilded. She lives in a cramped apartment with her overbearing mother and secretly visits the local porn parlor to watch hard-core movies. She is also masochistically driven to inflict harm on her own body and to be a Peeping Tom at the local drive-in where she watches a couple making love in their car. After she reluctantly supports the acceptance of handsome young pianist Walter as a student at the conservatory they enter a twisted and abusive sadomasochistic relationship in spite of Walter's apparent genuine love for the older Erika. The piano teacher's pathology is so extreme that she surreptitiously puts cut glass into the coat pocket of another student who then ruins her playing hand when she thrusts it into the pocket. This disturbed and sadistic heroine's despicable and graphic behavior resonates way beyond the film's wonderful music and great performances bringing down what would otherwise be a quality movie.
Isabelle Huppert one of France's greatest and most prolific film actresses is extraordinary in what can only be described as an extraordinarily challenging role. She gives a terrific and convincing performance as does Benoit Magimel as the handsome young piano student who falls under her diabolic spell and into her sick and manipulative web of erotic shenanigans. An intense turn from French legend Annie Girardot as Huppert's controlling mother is also top-notch.
German director Michael Haneke does a fine and convincing job directing the peculiar goings-on but must also take the rap as having anointed himself the adapter of this strange novel by Elfriede Jelinek. Haneke directs his actors convincingly and intriguingly and his adaptation also convinces more thanks to the actors than to direction or the underlying material. Haneke's evocation of the world of classical music and training including a soundtrack rich in the music of such masters as Schubert Bach and Beethoven and shots of musicians performing these beloved works is effective especially as counterpoint to the far-from-lofty teacher who is an ironic cog in this sublime process.