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Anna Karenina on the big screen. We’ll open Tolstoy’s classic novel of, passion, love and despair.

This publicity film image released by Focus Features shows Keira Knightley in a scene from "Anna Karenina." While “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement” were fresh, lively takes for an age that finds costume drama stuffy, director Joe Wright planned a wild and possibly off-putting ride on “Anna Karenina,” confining most of the action to a dilapidated theater where the actors would perform in a stylized cinematic ballet without the usual grand sweep of period-drama locations. (AP)
This publicity film image released by Focus Features shows Keira Knightley in a scene from "Anna Karenina." While “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement” were fresh, lively takes for an age that finds costume drama stuffy, director Joe Wright planned a wild and possibly off-putting ride on “Anna Karenina,” confining most of the action to a dilapidated theater where the actors would perform in a stylized cinematic ballet without the usual grand sweep of period-drama locations. (AP)

Greta Garbo played it.  Vivien Leigh played it, after Gone with the Wind.  Now it’s Keira Knightley’s star turn as Anna Karenina – the beautiful and doomed 19th century Russian aristocrat made slave to passion, desire, adultery.

The great Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina not as a potboiler, but as vivid instruction on the power of love, right and wrong, human splendor, and human flaws.  It raises what Russians call the Cursed Question:  How should I live?  Maybe David Patraeus should have read it.  Maybe he did.

This hour, On Point:  we’re rereading Anna Karenina.
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post.

Andrew Kaufman, lecturer in Slavic languages and literature at the University of Virginia. He's the author of Understanding Tolstoy.

Carol Appolonio, professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University.

From Tom's Reading List

New York Times "Bad literary adaptations are all alike, but every successful literary adaptation succeeds in its own way. The bad ones — or let’s just say the average ones, to spare the feelings of hard-working wig makers and dialect coaches — are undone by humility, by anxious obeisance to the cultural prestige of literature. The good ones succeed through hubris, through the arrogant assumption that a great novel is not a sacred artifact but rather a lump of interesting material to be shaped according to the filmmaker’s will."

Seattle Times "Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin is a government official; an older man with, according to his creator, Leo Tolstoy, large tired eyes and a deliberate, ungraceful gait. “Without haste and without rest” is his motto, in a life so meticulously scheduled and compartmentalized that it comes as a shock to him that his wife, Anna, has eyes for another man. In Joe Wright’s lavishly theatrical screen version of “Anna Karenina” (opening Wednesday), he is played by a seemingly unlikely actor: Jude Law, the handsome Brit who burst on the scene with “Wilde” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and who not so long ago might have seemed the obvious choice for Anna’s dashing young lover, Vronsky."

Video

Check out the official trailer for Anna Karenina.

Playlist

Overture by Dario Marianelli
Dance With Me by Dario Marianelli
Too Late by Dario Marianelli
Curtain by Dario Marianelli

This program aired on November 20, 2012.

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