The Washington Post

‘Anna Karenina’: An insight into Russian culture

Anna Karenina comes to theaters bringing the Russian winter, 19th century fashion and Keira Knightley doing what she does best. For those who didn’t read Leo Tolstoy’s 900-plus-page epic in a lit-class long ago, Anna Karenina is more than a tale about a woman in great furs. “It’s about love, parenting, betrayal, and the agony of choice,” says Natalia Batova, the former Cultural Attaché of the Russian Embassy, “It’s the story of all life.”

Keira Knightley stars as Anna in director Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," a Focus Features release. (Laurie Sparham/LAURIE SPARHAM)

While this adaptation places less emphasis on the supporting characters’ stories, it manages to expose nuances of Russian life.

The fashion: “With eight months of cold, you couldn’t do without fur,” Batova says. Despite what many retailers this season would have you believe, there is more to Anna’s fashion than putting a (faux) fur on it. (Don’t get us wrong, we love some good fur detailing.)

Furs are just one part of the luxurious wardrobes. Large brooches, flowing gowns, jewel tones, and crisp whites grace the screen. “They really didn’t know where they stood between the East and the West. So they decided they aspired to the West, and in particular to Paris. So they spoke French and they wore the latest Paris fashions....” says director Joe Wright.

View Photo Gallery: A new movie adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina” starring Keira Knightley, in theaters Friday, is set to dazzle with its elaborate costumes. Not coincidentally, designers piled on the glitter and rich, textured fabrics for fall clothing. Here, some examples of lush looks. — Janet Bennett Kelly

The theater: The film is half-motion-picture-half-stage-production. Wright’s decision to set a majority of the stories in the confines of a jewel-box theater is a nod to the importance of theater and the simplicity of performance in Russian culture. “You cannot lie on the stage. The emotions are more intense because the setting is not reality,” Batova says.

The landscape: Outside of the theater there are scenes of wide-open fields, the back-breaking work of harvest season, and the ornate details of Russian architecture.  “It looks like us,” Batova says. “You get a good sense of Russia through these things. But the train – the train should be a real train.”

Read More:

Holiday Movie Guide 2012

Veronica Toney is a features digital editor and writer at The Washington Post.


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