Anna Karenina (1948)
A film directed by Julien Duvivier

Genre: Drama / Romance


Anna Karenina photo
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...
© 2012

Film Review

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 appropriately so.
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Film Credits

  • Director: Julien Duvivier
  • Script: Jean Anouilh, Guy Morgan, Julien Duvivier, Leo Tolstoy (novel)
  • Photo: Henri Alekan
  • Music: Constant Lambert
  • Cast: Vivien Leigh (Anna Karenina), Ralph Richardson (Karenin), Kieron Moore (Count Vronsky), Hugh Dempster (Stefan Oblonsky), Mary Kerridge (Dolly Oblonsky), Marie Lohr (Princess Shcherbatsky), Frank Tickle (Prince Shcherbatsky), Sally Ann Howes (Kitty Shcherbatsky), Niall MacGinnis (Levin), Michael Gough (Nicholai), Martita Hunt (Princess Betty Tversky), Heather Thatcher (Countess Lydia Ivanovna), Helen Haye (Countess Vronsky), Mary Martlew (Princess Nathalia), Ruby Miller (Countess Meskov), Austin Trevor (Colonel Vronsky), Ann South (Princess Sorokina), Gus Verney (Prince Makhotin), John Longden (General Serpuhousky), Leslie Bradley (Korsunsky), Beckett Bould (Matvey), Judith Nelmes (Miss Hull), Valentina Murch (Annushka), Therese Giehse (Marietta), Michael Medwin (Kitty's Doctor)
  • Country: UK
  • Language: English / Italian
  • Support: Black and White
  • Runtime: 139 min

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