"You may, by indiscretion, give the world occasion to talk about you."
Based on the Tolstoy novel of the same name, Anna Karenina, is visually rich and emotionally cold. Set in late-19th-Century imperial Russia, the well-situated young matron, Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley), begins a dalliance with the handsome and wealthy Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The all-consuming affair eventually threatens her marriage, position, children, and life.
I am unskilled in appreciating stories about people who make stupid, self-destructive, and irredeemable decisions. Thank you, Leo Tolstoy. But like the slow-motion implosion of some beautiful and complex structure, the story is nevertheless compelling. With the exception of Domhnall Gleeson, who gives much-welcome life to Konstantine Levin, most of the characters left me with a sense of chilly detachment. Perhaps that was more due to the nature of the characters than any lack on the part of the actors who inhabited them. Nevertheless, Knightley does not seem to act so much as pose, and Taylor-Johnson doesn't deliver the substance of one for whom a woman would sacrifice all. As the kind and cuckolded Karenin, Jude Law turns in a solid performance of contained rage and humiliation.
The luxurious colors and textures, along with the theatrically inventive set design (throughout the movie, characters move from a theater stage to splendorous true-to-life settings), the film is an art piece in motion. The costumes are lush and very French—true to history, as the Russian aristocrats of the time sought out all things français.
Although this is a film that doesn't hit on all cylinders, its depth, complexity, and beauty merit at least one viewing and—if you appreciate dynamic art—perhaps even a second.