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anna karenina

February 17, 2013

I just saw Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina at a local, second-run movie theatre and I was completely blown away. I went in thinking it’d be a mediocre bore, but came out thinking it was a beautifully crafted piece of cinema.

Both the style and setting were original. The pace was as dizzying at the beginning as it was engrossing once it settled into the dream-like narrative, which itself was powerfully evocative and full of raw, emotive passion and anguish. In addition, while many of the reviews I’ve read are critical of Keira Knightley’s Anna Karenina as a cold and unsympathetic character compared to Jude Law’s Alexi Karenina, I saw in her a bold and independent woman whose suffering is the direct result of the pressures of the patriarchal society she lives in.

Her love, the love of an independent woman, was a subversive act; her ‘sin’ being a transgression of the ruling patriarchal ideology. And I viewed the ending as a protest/outcry to the moral foundations of such a rigid, prudish, and patriarchal system rather than an admission of her moral ‘guilt’ or weakness of will.

I thought her character demanded respect as much as sympathy, and adequately portrayed the despair of feminine independence in contrast to the relative comfort and security of subservience in a patriarchal society. Her love was more bravery than betrayal, and I thought the film conveyed that (especially via Dolly Oblonsky’s admission that she wished she’d done the same), as well as the complexities, and even irrationality, of love and lust as an integral part of the human condition.

Wright’s Anna Karenina is a tragic love story as much as it is a critique of patriarchy and bourgeois social relations that seek to constrain and subjugate femininity, and I can’t believe it hasn’t gotten more attention or praise. It’s a fucking work art, in my opinion. 10/10

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