Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
Director Bernard Rose, who fashioned Ludwig van Beethoven into an aching romantic in Immortal Beloved, might as well have titled this Tchaikovsky’s Anna Karenina, so much work does the Russian composer (and Tolstoy contemporary) do in establishing the emotional content of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a fourth filmed version of the well-known tragic love story. Braveheart‘s smoky-eyed Sophie Marceau, following in the slippered footsteps of Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and Jacqueline Bisset, makes her Anna languid and sex-drunk; Sean Bean (Goldeneye) turns his Count Vronsky into a peculiarly sympathetic fellow — so much so that you might well ask, What the heck was Anna’s problem? (In the contrasting subplot, Before and After‘s Alfred Molina — handily winning the Most Soul award in this crew — plays Levin to Exotica‘s Mia Kirshner as a featherweight Kitty.) The visual style is silky-Brit-TV pretty, with many shots of people making their way through endless corridors, and there’s a pearl-suspended-in-a-tube-of-Prell feel to the pacing. But the music is energetically swoonerific, and great use is made, in particular, of Tchaikovsky’s unabashedly melodramatic “Pathétique” Symphony, with its complementary themes of passion, love, disappointment, and death.