Anna Karenina, Blu-ray + DVD + UV Digital Copy (2013)
Cast: Keira Knightley; Jude Law; Aaron Taylor-Johnson; Kelly Macdonald
Director: Joe Wright
Studio: Universal 62123776 [2/19/13] (2 discs)
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD for 16:9
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0; Spanish & French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: “Anna Karenina: An Epic Story About Love;” Adapting Tolstoy; Keira As Anna; On Set with Director Joe Wright; Dressing Anna; Anna Karenina: Time-Lapse photography; Feature commentary with Director Joe Wright; Deleted scenes
Length: 130 minutes
Movie Rating: ***1/2 Video: **** Audio: ****
Anna Karenina is a modern film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s social commentary on 1874 Russian Imperial aristocracy. Anna (a radiant Keira Knightley) is married to an older statesman (Jude Law). They live with their son in St. Petersberg. When she travels to Moscow to console her sister, she meets a dashing young Calvary officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and they begin a passionate affair. This shatters their calm veneer, and her pregnancy foreshadows inexorable doom. Another romantic entanglement is detailed through Kostya (Domhnall Gleeson) and Katerina (Alicia Vikander). As the extra-marital affair seems headed for an unhappy ending, the secondary romance overcomes trials and tribulations.
The movie is literally staged like a play with scene direction and theatrical choreography. Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride And Prejudice and The Soloist) has taken an unconventional approach to period film making. In the place of customary sprawling shots are rhythmically edited, quirky scenes that showcase a lot of creativity. However, the emotional depth of the main character, Anna is never explored. She is nasty at times and not sympathetic. While Law’s impassive cuckold is pitch-perfect, Taylor-Johnson’s character is disconnected. Wright’s ultra-contemporary staging and film dexterity brushes past the melodramatic aspects of Tolstoy. The movie is interesting to watch, but fails to provide the intensity of the novel.
The transfer to Blu-ray is top notch. Vibrant costume design and set decoration are captured with precise detail. The cinematography is textured, capable of dream-like pastels or sharper colors. Outdoor landscapes are hushed, while the interior shots are more jarring. Visual transitions like a torn paper thrown into the air and changing to falling snow are compelling. 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio delivers auditory brilliance. Rumbling trains and horse racing noise is palpable and exhilarating. And delicate, nuanced sound like muted dialogue or wind moving through a field is crystalline. The box has an assortment of Bonus Features including deleted scenes and audio commentary from Wright. There is a five-minute feature on adapting Tolstoy with Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard that could have been expanded.