It was all about the dresses
My daughter summarized Anna Karenina as we walked from the theatre towards the restaurant where we’d round up our mother-daughter night.
I nodded in agreement. A woman who had a love affair outside of her marriage was mercilessly expelled from the community. If a man did the same thing, no one as much as raised their eyebrows. A man got to cater to his natural needs, right? We heard the message about the double standard loud and clear – a double standard that sadly enough prevails in many parts of the world.
“I couldn’t really connect to it though”, my daughter continued.
I could see where she was coming from. The movie is deliberately made in a theatrical style rather than a realistic. It even uses some of the typical manners from stage plays, as letting the entire cast freeze all of a sudden before the scene is switching right in front of you, just like it would in a theatre. While it looks stylish, it also brings an additional layer, like a veil that comes between the viewer and the events and people on the screen. While all those stage switches are technically brilliant and looks gorgeous, they also remind you that the people you see aren’t real; they are just actors performing a screenplay. You can admire them, but you don’t easily connect to them.
“Yeah”, I said. “But let’s talk about the dresses!”
Talking about the dresses
Normally I don’t take much notice about what clothes people wear in movies. I have very little interest in fashion. My clothes mostly serve to provide me warmth and protection; they’re not artistic expressions of my soul. But Anna Karenina is an exception. My friend Ryan McNeil over at The Matinee podcast always asks his guests about one thing that they take from the movie. And in this case there would be no hesitation in my answer. I would keep the dresses. There weren’t just a handful of them, there were hundreds. One for every mood, once for every new scene. And each one a piece of art.
I don’t normally spend a lot of time thinking about which screenshot to use for my writing about a certain movie. I’ll just grab whatever random picture that comes up at a search, as long as it isn’t completely misrepresentative to the film. But in the case of Anna Karenina it was the opposite. Words seemed irrelevant to make it justice, when it was all about the pictures. I didn’t want to choose one dress, I wanted to show the entire wardrobe!
Will you like or dislike Anna Karenina? In the end I think it depends on what the dresses do for you. Can a feast for the eye serve you as a satisfying meal? Or does it leave you with an empty stomach, craving for something you can relate to?
I know where I stand: I loved it. I can’t resist a movie as gorgeous as this one.
Oh, and my favourite dress was the dark red one, in case you wonder.
Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, UK 2012) My rating: 4/5