Whilst visiting her brother Oblonsky in Moscow, Anna Karenina, wife of
a career politician, meets and falls in love with a young solider,
Vronsky. In St Petersburg, Anna pursues her illicit affair with
Vronsky, to the dismay of her husband who is determined to seek a
divorce to avoid a scandal...
One of the most ambitious film productions of Tolstoy's celebrated
novel is this version starring the iconic actress Vivien Leigh and
directed by the great French film director Julien Duvivier. This
was Duvivier's only British film, although he also made several other
English language films in Hollywood in the 1940s.
Visually stunning, thanks to some impressive set and costume design and
its atmospheric cinematography (which evokes the poetic realist style
of Duvivier's earlier French films), the film would easily rate as a
masterpiece were it not for the generally insipid performances.
Vivien Leigh's portrayal fails to convey the passion and pathos of her
tragic heroine, whilst Kieron Moore's Vronsky is as dull as ditch
water. (Interestingly, Laurence Olivier was originally slated for
the role of Vronsky, but he was busy doing other things, namely Hamlet
.) The only part to be played
with any real conviction is Ralph Richardson's Alexei Karenin.
The asthetic and dramatic high point of the film is its utterly
heart-rending tragic denouement. For a few brief moments,
Duvivier and his cinematographer (the great Henri Alekan) conjure up a
sense of overwhelming pathos as Anna awakes from the spell of her
impossible love and finds herself alone, crushed and devastated in a
bleak, unfeeling universe. This is arguably the darkest and
cruellest sequence of any of Julien Duvivier's films - and
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