Anna Karenina

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charliechaplinfan
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Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

This thread is for the devotees of any of the various films, TV series or the book.

My favorite version of all the screen versions is Julien Duvivier's Anna Karenina 1948 starring Vivien Leigh. Primarily I think because Vivien has the physical frailty and exquisite beauty that I pictures for Tolstoy's Anna. As she enters into the affair with Vronsky her illumination in his love, desperation after giving birth to a still born child and then her ultimate descent into the needy and desperate Anna has a heart breaking quality. Her relationship with her son Sergei isn't as central to the plot, her descent in this is accelerated by Karenin's refual to divorce and Vronsky's real or perhaps imagined turning gradually away from her.

Kieron Moore's Vronsky isn't the best portrayal I've seen (I'm quite partial to John Gilbert, I think he displays the physical beauty and daring that made Vronsky attractive to Anna) he does pass muster. Ralph Richardson is very cold and single minded although in the book he is seen to soften towards Anna. Anna and Karenin's rode home in the carriage is one of the best in the film. Anna's still born child is left in this version of the film, something missing from both Hollywood versions, Karenin does show pity and takes her back only to have her depart once more with Vronsky.

Anna's costumes are beautifully designed by Cecil Beaton to compliment her ethereal beauty. The adaptation of the long novel is good getting most of the story points in there. Duvivier's direction and use of lighting, especially in the train station scenes is excellent.

I do like both Love, although it is far from the original story it does give a happy ending, John Gilbert IS Vronsky and Greta Garbo a captivating Anna, Garbo to me looks too hail and healthy to be Anna. Interestingly in both her versions, Garbo is very good with the actors playing Sergei, although she wasn't over fond of children it does not come across, what comes across is a warmth and naturalness. In Anna Karenina 1935 Frederic March does not suit period dramas for me, although he's a good Vronsky he never seems comfortable with the part and for me, Garbo and he aren't overly convincing lovers.

Lastly my thoughts onthe book. I've read it twice in my life, when I was in my teens and when I was pregnant with my first. Both times I felt differently towards the charecters, the first time it was grand because it was a great passion but by the second reading although I had sympathy with Anna I couldn't understand why she would leave her son for Vronsky. I found more sympathy for Karenin too who becomes very human towards the end of the novel and more steadfast towards Anna. It will always remain one of my favorite books.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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phil noir
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by phil noir »

charliechaplinfan wrote:It will always remain one of my favorite books.
I couldn't agree with you more, Alison. It's one of the best books I've ever read. Have you read War and Peace? I'm not sure which of the two I think is better/greater/whatever.

I've only seen the Garbo-March version of Anna Karenina, and that was a few years ago. It was soon after I had read the book, and I remember being disappointed at how abridged and obviously censored a version it was - it struck me as quite childish, and the book is a book for adults if ever there was one. Maybe if I saw it again, I would have a different opinion.

Reading your review of the Vivien Leigh version, I'm now keen to see it, and have added it to my rental list. Coincidentally, it struck me when I watched The Single Standard recently that elements of the plot seemed quite similar to Anna Karenina - I suppose it was a case of the studio wanting to repeat a successful formula if Love had done well at the box office.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I think the Garbo March version is lacking, it's sweetened to say the least. Love itself is Anna Karenina happy ever after but that was selling to the Gilbert/Garbo fascination for the public.

You must see Vivien Leigh's version, I read the book before I saw any of the films and Anna to me always looked like a Vivien Leigh, Cecil Beaton has costumed Vivien so extravagantly, she never looked better. The story is still abridged but I feel this is closer to the novel and retains the essence of the novel. The film has so much atomosphere, Julian Duvivier made some very good movies, Pepe Le Moko was one remade in the US as Algiers.

I've never read War and Peace, the length has always put me off, is it as good as Anna Karenina?
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MissGoddess
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by MissGoddess »

I've always believed in Vivling's "Anna" because she projected a very real need and dependence on Vronsky, which is central to understanding why she'd cling so to him and leave her son. With Garbo, as peerless an actress she is she is not to my mind ever "needy" of any of her screen partners. She seems like she would be just fine without them.

I have never liked the character of Vronsky at all, however. He's just an empty "pretty boy" to me and terribly spoiled.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I agree with your assessment of Vronsky, I guess it's a hard character to play because there is little sympathy in the character, having a dashing actor in the lead helps. Garbo is a great actress but doesn't convey the fraility needed. I had the same problem with her in Camille, although I try to ignore it because she gives such a great performance.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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phil noir
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by phil noir »

charliechaplinfan wrote:I've never read War and Peace, the length has always put me off, is it as good as Anna Karenina?
War and Peace is basically just a really brilliant and absorbing story. The trouble is that the title has become a byword for any long and difficult book. I remember somebody coming up to me once when I was reading another thick book, and saying, 'What's that you're reading? War and Peace?'

It isn't difficult, it's just long - and once you've got into it, you'll be glad it's so long, because it means that you'll have plenty more of it to enjoy! (That's my opinion anyway.)
jdb1

Re: Anna Karenina

Post by jdb1 »

MissGoddess wrote:I've always believed in Vivling's "Anna" because she projected a very real need and dependence on Vronsky, which is central to understanding why she'd cling so to him and leave her son. With Garbo, as peerless an actress she is she is not to my mind ever "needy" of any of her screen partners. She seems like she would be just fine without them.

I have never liked the character of Vronsky at all, however. He's just an empty "pretty boy" to me and terribly spoiled.
I agree. Garbo was not exactly a clinging vine in this, and was more like a Liberated Woman, which didn't jibe with the rest of the goings on. I don't like this one mostly because I don't care for March, who I find a very cold screen presence, and I can't see why any woman would go out of her way for him on any level. I suppose for that reason, he was a good choice for the role.

However, the one thing that really makes this movie for me is what happens right before Anna goes under the train. She is standing near a locomotive at the station, and sees her lover with another woman. The expression of pain, betrayal and despair on Garbo's face is shattering, and is worth sitting through the entire movie to see.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I didn't care for Frederic March in Anna Karenina, Garbo saved the film with her performance and her wonderfully expressive face.

Phil, one day I will read War and Peace, often with works of literature you have to persevere for the first hundred pages or so to get to know the characters and the setting. I've tackled some of Dicken's longer works and a few other tomes but I've always shied away from War and Peace reasoning that I could probably read 3 novels in the time I could get through War and Peace.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
feaito

Re: Anna Karenina

Post by feaito »

It's kind of strange for me to read these posts, because I have always read reviews which praise highly the 1935 film and Garbo's performance and dismiss the 1948 version directed by Duvivier and starring Vivien Leigh. This, because I have always felt that Vivien Leigh's Anna is better than Greta's, although without having rationalized the reasons and upon reading your insight I've realized that she conveyed much better the frailty, helplessness and sense of despair of the title character.

The two versions of "Anna Karenina" (1935 & 1948) were among the very first Classic films I saw as a kid -I was 5 years old or younger I think- and they left a lasting impression in my mind, especially their respective endings which depict Anna's suicide.

I'm eager to watch the 1948 again, because I haven't seen it for decades.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Vivien's Anna is tortured by a old man relentlessly tapping. Her suicide is memorable, she lies under the train and it rolls over the top of her. The camera is on the track and films the train going over the top of her.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
feaito

Re: Anna Karenina

Post by feaito »

Thanks to this thread, I decided to watch back to back both versions of "Anna Karenina", Vivien's and Greta.

Since I hadn't watched Vivien Leigh's version as an adult, I was favorably surprised by it. I found it a darker, somber film -which I think its more appropriate to the story line- the sets looked much more real than those in MGM's version, which almost looked too perfect and shiny to be real (Anna's home especially). Vivien Leigh's costumes are superb, she looks so gorgeous; Greta Garbo is a beautiful woman, but Vivien really took my breath away. Such a frail, delicate, lovely creature; who wouldn't have fallen in love with such a doll? Vivien Leigh was a true goddess! Ralph Richardson's Karenin is much more complex and layered than Basil Rathbone's rather one-dimentional, selfish, villainous character. In the 1935 version Sergei's part seems more built-up to showcase Freddie Bartholomew and in the 1948 Duvivier version he's not so prominently featured. I liked the pacing of the 1948 film, whereas the 1935 seemed to me much more episodic and chopped. Would Irving Thalberg have done a better job as producer of the 1935 version than Selznick?

Of course MGM has top production values, but as I said before, the 1948 British version looks more realistic. Also, in the 1948 version Vivien's Anna is shown giving birth to Vronsky's child (a stillborn), which helps to understand Anna’s attachment to Vronsky.. There are certain scenes in the 1948 version which are especially well done; for instance, the racetrack scene in which Vivien's face and mouth conveys perfectly her love and desire for Vronsky...the way in which Richardson looks at her and realizes he's lost her, is magnificent. Also the parallel scenes in which Duvivier shows Anna's elopement with Vronsky at the same time Kitty is getting married to Levin, is wonderfully done, conveying that in a way there's a similar meaning in what both couples are feeling and living in those same moments. The séance scene in which Martita Hunt's Princess Betsy is -supposedly- talking to the spirit of a tragic deceased women who was doomed because of love, at the same time that Anna is finally relenting to Vronsky's amorous pursuit...the beautifully staged suicide scene and the different ways in which the director anticipates it during the film as an omen, with Anna's nightmares and fright when she's at train stations.

Garbo has some fine moments in the 1935 version, which until recently I considered very good, but I have to recognize that t this time it paled in comparison with the 1948 film, which has been vastly and unfairly underrated.

As for Vronsky, I feel that March did a better job, because Kieron Moore was blander in the role, although it is unfair to say he’s bad. He’s just OK. It’s Vivien’s picture all the way and Richardson shines in his role overshadowing Moore.

I have rediscovered a film from my infancy.
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by feaito »

I have just realized there's a 139 minutes version of Duvivier's film. I saw the 111 minutes version. Has anyone seen the longer, uncut version? Is it better?
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

The region 2 DVD that I have runs for over 2 hours. I liked your assessment of the two movies, the one thing that could have been better in Vivien's version is Vronsky. Wouldn't it have been wonderful with Larry?
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
feaito

Re: Anna Karenina

Post by feaito »

Thanks Alison. Olivier as Vronsky? I hadn't thought about it.
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Re: Anna Karenina

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I suppose he'd have been too old to play him by then but picture him in his Heathcliff days, that would have been perfect.

As for other Vronsky's I'm not sure who was around who would have been right. I think Viven Leigh is so peerless it's difficult to get a leading man who shines as much as she.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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