(Read in Italian) Yesterday I stepped out with a friend to see the new movie Anna Karenina with Keira Knightely and Jude Law. Visually it is a stupendous film. It is rich in every beathtaking and tragic detail and full of unbridled passion. But this time, there is an unusual twist to Tolstoy’s story about a woman married to an aging Russian bureaucrat who falls in love with a young audacious military man: the whole story it is set in and around a vintage theater. It is a creative choice and certainly not one that I expected. At first if was rather strange to see the characters acting out their parts on the stage, in the balconies, backstage and even in the rafters of this theater retelling the love story that eventually goes terribly wrong and irrevocably destroys Anna.
One can analyze the film, talking about the double standards, how women who had extramarital affairs were ostracized while it was the norm for men of the age to have affairs. We can also talk about the duplicity of Anna, an unkind woman marked for her choices that betrayed and hurt her faithful, if not lackluster husband. We can also talk about the injustice of a privileged and spoiled society that condemned a young mother full of life and love for her only child and passion for her only true love.
Evil or good, Anna is a tragic heroin constrained by rigid social mores. In the film they say…”There is no choice when there is love” but the choices the Anna made were destructive and they changed her from a beautiful innocently seductive woman to an unsympathetic whining harpy forced to hide herself away from society. Tolstoy gets on his soap box saying: immoral love destroys while a pure love based on other things than raw passion is a love that endures.
I was thinking about the fantastic way in which this film was shot, in an almost vaudville-esque kind of theater in a way that seemed affected and artificial. But then there were moments in the which the film leaves behind the falsity of the theater stage and there are scenes thrown in to the mix shot in real fields of grain and in the snowy Russian countryside. I realized that this happened only during the scenes that tell the story of Levin, a rich but socially awkward landowner and his love for Kitty. This happens first when the doors of the theater are thrown open and Levin leaves society to return to his farm. He walks out and into the real world and the contrast is surprising. Like the character Pierre in “War and Peace” The key to finding happiness for Levin is to return to the country to work in the fields of grain where he can feel alive and in contact with his true and honest emotions. It is the falsity of society that ruins Anna, but the code of the peasant – living an authentic life – that sustains Levin.
In the last scene of the film we see Anna’s husband and her children who play in a field of wildflowers, but the camera pulls back and we are back in the theater where the stage and entire theater is filled with flowers. Perhaps the message: passion and love, commitment and the innocence of youth, authenticity to one’s self and the artificial trappings of society, somehow have to be integrated into a delicate balance to create a happy life. At any rate, I recommend seeing the film…at least to take in all the beauty.
Preview in English