Anna Karenina (2012 film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Anna Karenina is a 2012 British drama film directed by Joe Wright, adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel of the same name. The film depicts the tragedy of married aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role of Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright, while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Alexei Karenin and Vronsky respectively. Produced by Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal, the film premiered at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival and was released on 7 September 2012 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and on 9 November in the United States.


A theater curtain is raised and a title card showcases Imperial Russia 1874. Another title card is shown and announces the house of Prince Stepan "Stiva" Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen). We see Oblonsky getting ready for a shave while his wife Daria "Dolly" (Kelly Macdonald) is tenderly greeting her five children by their attractive governess. Oblonsky and the governess are soon seen fornicating in a closet. Dolly finds a pink note from the governess in her husband's office. She tearfully confronts Oblonsky and banishes him from seeing her or their children.

While this happens, we see Oblonsky's sister Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) read a letter from Stiva to come help save his marriage. She lives in St. Petersburg and is a rich socialite whom many admire. As she dresses, Anna tells her husband Alexi Karenin, (Jude Law) an older but brilliant Russian statesman, that she will depart to Moscow to help solve the problems between her brother and sister-in-law. Karenin allows her to leave but warns her about fixing the problems of others. Anna ignores this and goes to Moscow anyway, leaving her son Serozha who wants her to stay.

Back in Moscow, Stiva meets his old friend Konstatin Dimitrivich Levin (Domhnall Gleeson). Levin professes his love to Stiva's sister-in-law Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and Stiva encourages him to propose to Kitty at a soirée. Levin proposes to Kitty, but Kitty declines his offer. As Levin leaves, he bumps into Count Alexi Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Vronsky is a young, rich, handsome calvary officer who has set his sights on Kitty. Kitty is amused by this, and believes that a marriage to Vronsky will not only make her Countess, but also a rich, admired socialite like Anna Karenina.

Anna, while on a train to Moscow, meets Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya (Olivia Williams). The countess is known throughout Russia as an adulteress. But she brushes it off because she is old, and has much better things to worry about—like her young son Vronsky and Kitty. Levin meets up with his elder brother Nikolai (David Wilmot), who, like Levin, is an aristocrat, but has given up his inheritance to live a poor life. Nikolai lives with a prostitute named Masha whom he has taken as his wife. Nikolai confesses to Levin that love, money and power are all last illusions of an old order, and that he should marry one of his peasants working for him at his estate. Levin, feeling weary of the events that have happened, leaves his brother and returns to his country estate in Pokrovskoe.

Anna arrives in Moscow and is greeted by her brother Stiva at the station. While there, she meets Count Vronsky and has an immediate and returned attraction. As they prepare to leave, a railroad worker is caught beneath train tracks and is violently killed. Vronsky, to impress Anna, decides to give money to the deceased man's family.

Anna comforts Dolly and convinces her to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty is radiant and dances with many aristocratic men. Everyone is there to see her until Anna appears in black dress adorned with diamonds. As Kitty must dance with the officers and gentlemen who have filled her dance card, Vronsky decides to dance with Anna. As they dance, the other dancers at the ball seem to be frozen in time. Their love and passion is noticed by everyone, including an upset Kitty. Anna notices this, and decides to leave the ball, feeling she has upstaged Kitty. Anna boards a train bound back to St. Petersburg, and at a rest stop notices Vronsky there. He declares that he must be where she is at every moment. She tells him to go back to Moscow and that their dalliance is wrong. He says he cannot and will follow her anyway.

In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his friends along with his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya (Ruth Wilson) who is friends with Anna and Karenin. Vronsky shows up at all the places Anna and Besty visit. Anna is clearly amused, but also ashamed because now all of her rich society friends are starting to notice their attraction. A party thrown by Betsy's soiree is abuzz about Anna not coming to the party due to Vronsky's presence there. Vronsky leaves the party and Anna arrives late. The guests walk around her, the ladies fluttering their fans whispering about her, and the men kiss her hand. Betsy informs Anna that Vronsky has left, so she need not worry about a scandal. But Vronsky returns and starts to court and flirt with Anna openly. The party guests gossip behind their backs, then Karenin appears. He notices the attraction immediately between Anna and Vronsky and and suggests they go home at once. Anna decides to stay and goes home later. As she waits for her carriage, Vronsky threatens to take a promotion in another city but Anna requests that he stay. Anna arrives home and has an awkward conversation with her husband about Vronsky. She denies there is any attraction and dupes her husband into thinking he is hearing gossip and believing it when he should be believing her. They go to bed, and the next day Anna and Vronsky meet at a hotel and make love.

Back at Levin's country estate, Stiva visits and the two go out shooting in the forest. Levin asks if Kitty and Vronsky are indeed going to be married, and Stiva tells him they are not. Levin, heartbroken over Kitty, decides to give up on love and instead focus on living a authentic life. He plows his fields with his workers and has thoughts of taking one of his workers' daughters as his wife, like his brother had suggested.

Anna and Vronsky retreat to the country. Karenin hears word that both his wife and her lover are in the country and decides to surprise her there at his country estate. Anna is playing in the field with her son, when she hears Vronsky approach her. She tells him that she is pregnant and she wishes to be his and only his. While retreating back to her country house she encounters Karenin who suggests he joins her for the horse races that evening. All of Russian society is at the races, and Anna sits with the elite, which includes Princess Betsy. At the races, Countress Vronskaya, upon hearing the rumors of her son and Anna, gives Anna a disgusted look and instead gives her attention to the young Princess Sorokina (Cara Delevingne).

The races begin and Karenin notices Anna waving her fan impatiently to see if Vronsky will win. Vronsky gets ahead in the race, and at the last round his horse Frou Frou collapses and has broken her back falling off the track with Vronsky, at that moment Anna screams out loud in which all of Russian society notices, and thus confirms the affair. The horse is shot dead by Vronsky. On their way home Anna confesses to Karenin that she is indeed Vronsky's mistress and wishes to leave him. He does not allow her to, and instead has her confined to their house perform her wifely and motherly duties to keep up appearances. Anna meets Vronsky in her country estate garden and tells him what has happened. Vronsky demands she gets a divorce from her husband but Anna knowing the consequences of a divorce says "We will find a way." All of society is a buzz about Anna. Even Levin hears the news and is somewhat relieved that Vronsky did not marry Kitty.

As he plowing his field on morning he sees a carriage with Kitty. Kitty looking serene and angelic sticks out her head from the carriage and breathes in the country air. At that moment Levin returns to Moscow and demands to Stiva that he must marry Kitty. Anna is starting to show that she is pregnant and receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg. Anna berates him and curses at him that why had he not come to her sooner, in which Vronsky looking shocked at this new temper in Anna, replies only that he was doing his duties as an Officer. Anna forgives him and he forgives her. Soon Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky has been visiting Anna much to his rule that he was forbidden to be in house or near his wife.

He searches Anna's desk and finds love letters in which he takes from and declares he will divorce her, keep their son, and drive her out into the street. Anna begs for her son to be with her, but Karenin enraged with anger shouts out that he would never have his son be with an adulteress mother. Levin and Kitty are reunited at the Oblonsky's house for dinner. There Karenin arrives to give news that he is divorcing Anna, much to the dismay of Oblonsky and Dolly. Dolly speaks with Karenin making him realize that it was Anna who saved her marriage, and she wishes to do the same. She begs Karenin to forgive her, but Karenin has made up his mind, even though he still loves Anna. After the dinner, Levin and Kitty confess their love to each other and admit to each other through letter blocks that they were both childish and they have indeed grown up, and they do love each other. Kitty even confesses that while she was unsure if she had loved him or not, when ill finally realized that she did love him and never stopped loving him. They are married.

A letter is given to Karenin at his hotel which explains that Anna has gone into premature labor and is dying. Karenin tears the card and returns home to see Anna die. As Anna lays dying Karenin sees that she has confessed her sins before God and that she was in the wrong to have done what she had done to him. Vronsky is there at her side, and she again berates him and tells him that he could never be the man, Karenin is. Karenin feeling ashamed at how he has treated Anna, falls on his knees and begs for her forgiveness. Anna forgives him and he embraces her and kisses her.

The next day Vronsky leaves at the request of Karenin. Karenin forms an attachment to Anna's baby who is called "Anya". He cradles her and watches over as if she was his child. Princess Betsy calls on Anna and discusses with her what will happen to Vronsky now that he has left Petersburg and has gone back to Moscow. Anna notices that Karenin is in the doorway and invites him in. She tells Betsy to tell Karenin everything she has told her, in which Betsy ashamed and embarrassed tells Karenin everything.

Karenin respectfully shows her the way out and comes back to see Anna in tears and in rage. He asks what is the matter in which Anna replies that she wished she would have died instead now she has to live with Karenin and still hear about and see Vronsky wherever she goes, but even more so with her bastard daughter from him. Karenin assures her that they will indeed be happy together again, but Anna refuses to be with Karenin. She only wants Vronsky. Karenin still does not agree to a divorce but releases Anna from her confinement. Anna informs Vronsky through a telegraph and the two leave to Italy along with little Anya. Levin and Kitty return to Levin's country estate where all his servants and attendees are enchanted with his new wife.

Levin's maid informs him that his sick brother Nikolai and his wife Masha are in the country and wish to seek solitude because Nikolai is sick and will probably not live another day or so. Having told Kitty about his Brother, and the situation about his wife Masha, Levin feels Kitty will be alarmed and outraged. However he is mistaken and Kitty dutifully asks that his Brother and wife and join them in their country estate and that she will nurse him. Levin is shocked to see Kitty dirtying her hands with Nikolai's dirty clothes, but he starts to notice that she, Kitty, has indeed grown up and is not living for herself anymore. She is living for others.

Word has gotten to Countess Lydia that Anna and Vronsky have returned back to St. Petersburg. Anna writes to Countess Lydia to see that if she can intervene for her so that she may see Serozha for his birthday. Karenin is still heart broken over Anna's decision to abandon her son and lets the Countess reply back to her. Anna enraged goes to her rich mansion and rebuffs her former servants attempts to get her out of the house. She goes into Serozha's room, where he sleeps. She wakes him and professes to him how much she loves him and that she was wrong to leave him. However, she tells him that he must come to love his Father, for he is good and kind, and is far better than she will ever be.

Karenin enters the room, he sees Anna and motions for her to leave. Anna leaves and returns to Vronsky's hotel room. Vronsky arrives late, and Anna starts to believe that he is fooling around on her. Anna whips up her courage to attend the Opera, proclaiming that she is not ashamed for what she has done, and neither should Vronsky. Anna attends the Opera in complete opposite as she did at the ball. She wears a white dress, a white fur stole, and diamonds. The attendees look at her with disgust and amusement. She starts to understand that society is still not accepting of her or Vronsky. A friendly box neighbor asks if she needs a program, to which Anna, happily to have someone nice talk her accepts. It is only after, the neighbors wife starts a raucous and verbally insults Anna.

All of the Opera house sees the commotion including Vronsky. Anna is humiliated, but retains her poise and elegance. She stands up and leaves the theater. When she arrives back to the hotel she falls to the floor in floods of tears. Vronsky rushes to her, and she yells at him and tells him why he did not stop her from going. Vronsky tries to settle the situation by giving her laudanum with water. The next day Anna still a bit anxious and nervous is having lunch at a restaurant. The society women there ignore her, and some leave the tables that surround Anna. Dolly, her sister in law grabs a seat next to her and talks with her. She tells Anna that Kitty is pregnant and is in Moscow to have the baby. Anna pleased for Kitty.

Dolly explains that Stiva is the same, but that she has come to love him for who he is, and that she misses Anna. Anna pleased to still have someone on her side kisses Dolly and returns back to the hotel. As she arrives Vronsky is reading a letter, but then hides it when Anna enters. Anna informs Vronsky that she doesnt want to think about a divorce or anything only that she loves him and that wherever he goes she shall go with him. Vronsky informs her that he must meet with his mother one last time to settle some accounts, but when Anna sees that Princess Sorokina has come by the hotel to pick him up to send him to his mother's does Anna start to lose her grip on reality. She drinks more laudanum, and asks her maid to dress her. Anna goes by train to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother.

As she stops from station to station she thinks of her son, her daughter, Karenin, and has a hallucination of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love, and laughing about her. Anna stops at the last station, sees the incoming train, crosses herself, jumps on the tracks and yells out "GOD FORGIVE ME". She is crushed to death.

Levin is seen piling hay, and is plowing his fields. He asks one of his foreman's if he is indeed living a rich life to which the foreman claims yes because he has a wife and children and God. Levin still shocked and amazed at Kitty's kind heart and will fullness to have helped his brother, realizes that Kitty is indeed his wife, and that love while immature in the beginning can grow into something more beautiful and more earnest. He also starts to believe that fate is indeed the working of God, and how God truly has blessed him with Kitty and now with a son.

He returns home in the rain to find Kitty giving their new born son a bath. He kisses her and tells her that he just realized something. Kitty asks him what is, and Levin cradling his baby boy in his arms looks at her, with tears in his eyes and says that someday he will tell her. Oblonsky and his family are seen eating with Levin and Kitty, and Oblonsky looking weary and sad, goes outside lights a cigaret and seems to be crying. It can be implied that he is mourning his sister, or that he is indeed happy and will give up his old life as a an adulterer.

Karenin is seen to be happily retired from public duties and is enjoying a book in the meadow where Anna had been playing with Serozha and where she first revealed to Vronsky that she was pregnant. We see Serozha and now a 4 year old old little Anya playing among the daisies growing in the field. In a wide shot, it is revealed that the field is on a theater stage where the film began. Thus the whole film's concept of the Russian aristocracy living their lives as if on a stage.

Critical reception

Upon its release, the film received positive to mixed reviews from critics, with most praising the cast – particularly Knightley – and the production design but criticising the script and Wright's apparent preference for style over substance. The film received an average review score of 61 percent according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic reported an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 41 reviews and classified the film as "generally favorable".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anna Karenina (2012 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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