Joe Wright and Keira Knightley’s third re-teaming on a period literature adaptation, Leo Tolstoy’s classic “Anna Karenina”, at first seemed to be following the same formula as their previous collaborations on “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement”.
You have one of the greatest novels ever written as the source material, a stellar British cast and a script by Tom Stoppard which all scream costume drama meets awards fare. This no longer appears to be the case however, in fact what we’re getting seems less Merchant & Ivory and more Charlie Kaufman in style.
Instead he’s trying something much more experimental in an effort to “expresses the essence of the story”. Inspired by Orlando Figes’ 2002 work “Natasha’s Dance”, Wright decided to shoot the majority of the Russian epic in a run-down theater stage built from scratch at Shepperton Studios in the UK.
Thus the tale of a love triangle within the Russian aristocracy and its themes of trying to find an authentic life will play out in a theatre with movie magic creating a “fluid linearity” says Wright. The stage will be an ice rink at one point, a train station the next – characters will “walk from one house under the ‘stage’ straight onto the horse training ground” and doors will lead to Russian landscapes.
Cutaway wide shots to show exteriors and scale will employ toy trains and dollhouses, while anachronistic flourishes (ie. props and elements from more modern and/or ancient times) will intrude as Anna’s sanity unravels. Only Domhnall Gleeson’s character Levin will venture outside the theatre as he is the only truly authentic character amongst a group of posers and is thus “able to go out in the real world”.