Anna Karenina

Anna-Karenina-Train-Station

It was Leo Tolstoy who said that ‘there are as many loves as there are hearts.’ And so it is not surprising that he wrote Anna Karenina, often called the greatest of all novels; surpassing in humanity even the earlier War and Peace.

Last night I treated myself to watching the acclaimed director Joe Wright’s bold, new vision of the epic story of love. And walked across the sleeping city afterwards, more certain than ever that in this contemporary world were human interactions are referred to in acronyms and measured in minutes … every day there is a little bit less space left in it for me.

But alas back to the story.

Anna-Karenina-Train-Station

The year is 1874. Russia’s aristocracy is as numerous and as dazzling as muzhiks are downtrodden. Winds of change are in the air.

Vibrant, and mesmerizing, Anna Karenina (played beautifully by Keira Knightley) has it all; she is the wife of Karenin (Jude Law), a high-ranking government official to whom she has born a son, and her social standing amongst the fashionable aristocracy of St. Petersburg could scarcely be higher.  Her life resembles life of every other upper-class women of her time; married at 18 to successful and kind but dull man whose daily routines are as predictable as are passionless, Anna’s role is that of a dazzlingly beautiful ornament. In that gilded cage, Anna is suffocating and her only ray of sunshine is her beloved son.

She journeys to Moscow after a letter from her good-natured, but notoriously philandering brother Stiva (Matthew Macfadyen), arrives, asking her to come and help save his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). On the journey, Anna makes acquaintance of Countess Vronsky (Olivia Williams) and her son, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

When Anna is introduced to Vronsky, there is a strong, mutual spark of instant attractions that cannot, and will not be ignored. The Moscow household is visited by Stiva’s best friend Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), an overly sensitive and compassionate landowner.  In true Slav’s fashion and just like Leo Tolstoy himself, Levin is tortured by his search for meaning of life. It has been often observed that in Levin, Tolstoy has given us a true reflection of himself.

Levin is in love with Dolly’s young sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander). Inopportunely, he proposed to Kitty bus she is infatuated with Vronsky. Devastated, Levin returns to his Pokrovskoe estate. Kitty herself is heartbroken as Vronsky only has eyes for Anna and the married woman reciprocates the younger man’s interest.

Anna struggles to regain her equilibrium by rushing home to St. Petersburg, Vronsky follows. She attempts to resume her familial routine, but is consumed by thoughts of Vronsky. A passionate affair ensures, which scandalizes St. Petersburg society. As one of the fashionable ladies observed; ‘I would not mind if she broke the law, but she broke the rules.’ And in an image-obsessed society, that is an unforgiving sin. It will prove to be a mortal sin.

Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty found their love again and marry into blissful domestic happiness. Just like Tolstoy himself, Levin ends up happy, healthy husband and father, with his love of peasants, land and simple pleasures and his disdain of hypocrisy, fashionable liberalism and drawing-room religion.

While Karenin, who initially attempts to preserve their marriage, partially out of love for Anna, but mostly to prevent further scandals, is eventually placed in an untenable position and is forced to give his wife an ultimatum. She will either give up Vronsky and in return continue to enjoy Karenin’s protection not only for herself, but also for her daughter whose father is Vronsky, or she will choose Vronsky and forsake all else; including both her children, her name and all she ever knew.

Anna chose Vronsky … and died for it.

In one of the last scenes in Wright’s theatrical master-piece; after Anna’s suicide, Karenin is seen reading a book amongst blossoming meadows while both Anna’s children are happily playing nearby.

As a witness of his time, in Anna, Karenin, Levin, Kitty, Stiva, Dolly and Vronsky, Leo Tolstoy has given us unprecedented glimpse into Russian society in 19th century. But above all he has asked us to consider our human heart … he would not have been true Slav if he has not.

So for his (and mine) sake, forgive for a moment that we live in speed/internet/txt dating and such world … and just listen for a moment your pure human heart … if you are Anna what would you do? Would you forsake all for burning passion whatever the price, or would you have chosen passionless but safe return home however suffocating it might be?

 anna karenina

Author: Daniela

Reader, Writer, Mother, Freethinker, Habitual Day Dreamer, Blogger - Sharing Ideas, Poetry, Prose, and Conversations on the Lantern Post!

31 thoughts on “Anna Karenina”

    1. Oh I hope you do see it … it is worth every minute of it!

      Thank you Deb … that makes two of us, as I would choose passion too … afraid would not be able to do much else!

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  1. I agree with Deb, Anna’s choices were metaphors.
    I found some differences from the book and in the movie, but I thought the movie still captured the essence of the main themes of Tolstoy’s book.
    The surprise for me was Jude Law; I never would have cast him as Karenin, but he was perfect!
    Another excellent post, Daniela.

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    1. Anna’s choices are metaphors, however at time Leo wrote the novel those choices would have been real for a woman of her standing if found in those circumstances.

      I was also surprised by the choice of Jude Law, however even more so by the choice for Vronsky … at the end I really think Jude was fantastic, but not so sure about Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting,

      All the Best,
      Daniela

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    1. I have made choices for my kid too and have never regret those … however in this life I have never been in situation where I have to make a choice whether or not to follow my love for a man against huge stakes … but knowing my risk-taking nature and Slavic heritage I dare say I would choose passion each and every time … come what may!

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting,
      Daniela

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    1. Well, I think I would prefer to have to make such choice, because it would also mean to experience such love … but alas all great loves of literature and poetry remain great because they are tragic … still I subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to love and lost than to never have loved at all!

      Many thanks for reading and commenting,
      Daniela

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    1. Thank you very much my dear … and you are always very kind -:)!

      I know how filled ‘to do’ lists can get! Watch the movie instead, it is full of stunning visual effects and reasonably close to the book -:)!

      Many thanks and Take Care,
      Daniela

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  2. I loved that book and do aim to see the movie.. I led a life of suffocating safety for years and can tell anyone, choose passion..

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  3. I think passion can be very short lived in the face of society’s judgments and the loss of family, even if one were willing to forego security. I would have chosen the safer road and looked for personal growth through other diversions. Your review is wonderful Daniela, and after I see the movie, I may change my mind about taking the safer route.

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  4. I’m seeing it tonight! Hope it’s as good as the old one with GG….
    Yes – the eternal question – to follow the heart or the mind…
    Sve prave su ljubavi tuzne….ako se sjecas Balsevica🙂
    Wishing you all the best dear Daniela!

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    1. Oh I am so glad you will be seeing it … it is quite different to the old one and, in my view, better.

      Draga moja … da li sjecam Balasevica … ja ga slusam skoro svaki dan. Po tome znam da sam zivjela u nekom drugom vremenu i nekoj drugoj zemlji …

      Many, many thanks for reading and commenting,
      Warmest greetings from NZ -:)!

      Daniela

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      1. You were right, it’s really well done I liked the actors as well. Moving and sad story….

        Drago mi je da jos slusas stare pjesme🙂
        Ah, nostalgija…..

        Hugs your way!!

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  5. I like your reviews and since have been keeping this book in my reading list for sometime, I think it is going to be the next in line and when I finish reading am not doing a review, I will just link your blog😀

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    1. Glad to hear it -:)! I think you are going to enjoy the book very much … I have read it first time when I was only 16 or 17 and couple of times since … just can’t help it -:)!

      Many thanks for reading and commenting,
      Daniela

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  6. I, unfortunately, had the choice, and fortunately, chose the safe path. Otherwise, like Anna, I would not be here to comment. However, once you have the passion, it will burn a hole in your brain for several years and then the imprint is with you forever; for good or bad – – – depending on your resiliancy and ability to compartmentalize your thoughts.

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    1. Oh Waldo … thank you so very, very much for speaking about it!

      It is indeed true that passion can and will scar us, sometimes for ever … it is also true that without those scares we would not have fully lived … we truly treasure only those experiences that are born in pain. And while I am sure it was difficult for you … I think you fortunate to have experienced it!

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  7. I am so glad you wrote about this film… I loved it, as I love the novel. Stylistically it is so surprising… and the costumes, gorgeous! And yes, it is an overwhelming question, isn’t it?? Passion is hard to turn down… but what a cost! xxoo

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    1. I am so glad you loved it … it is indeed stylistically surprising but in the most wonderful way!

      Price is always proportional to the depth of passion … it is life’s equilibrium -:)!

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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  8. Hi Daniela,l read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina,many years ago,certain passages are still vivid in my mind..Great review.In my opinion the novel is the pinnacle of love stories.Thank you for the visit. Have a nice day.jalal

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  9. Hi Daniela, I haven’t seen the movie, but the book captured my heart several years ago. I’m afraid I would opt for safe. I’m not sure that passion is enough to sustain a person for very long. It disappears so quickly, and then the passionate one is off to another lover, leaving me, the impassioned, adrift and lonely. Better to stick to safe, and read about Anna’s adventures. 🙂

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    1. Hi my dear,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting -:)! One of the great wonders of life is that each one of us finds our own paths … and no one is better than the other, only different. Great writers in novels like Anna Karenina show us our human condition from all sides.

      Many thanks,
      Daniela

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      1. Yes it does show various human conditions, Daniela, and probably pretty accurately, I think. Unlike some novels that have unrealistic outcomes for predictable behavior.

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