Anna Karenina & the power of choice

I watched the new Anna Karenina movie last night and wept over my giant bowl of popcorn. That story never loses its poignancy for me, no matter how often I hear it. The movie was excellent, though it took a while to get used to its play-like format. Initially, I was skeptical about how the movie could possibly do justice to such a book — of course it can’t — but it’s a beautiful production in its own right.

Anna, unhappy as usual (photo:

Interestingly, I found that Anna, played by Keira Knightley, is much less likeable in the movie than she is in the book. In the movie, she is essentially a stranger with little background information. Her love affair with Count Vronsky starts off almost immediately, so unless the viewer has read the book, it’s hard to know who she is, where she comes from, and why she might be driven to act the way she does. The book is far more sympathetic toward her and, in my opinion, makes her out to be someone whom the reader loves and sympathizes with. I finished the movie feeling sad and contemplative, with a flurry of thoughts in my mind.

First: The choices we make have a very profound impact on our lives.

Anna truly set herself up for disaster by succumbing to Vronsky’s advances and, from that point on, her life came crashing down like a house of cards. Like it or not, there are societal ‘rules’ to follow that exist because they’re tried-and-true. She lost her marriage, her friends, access to her children, and eventually her life, once she realized her pursuit of a fairy tale had left her absolutely miserable. It’s heartbreaking.

Second: One must decide to have a good relationship. It doesn’t just happen.

Anna seems to have begun her affair with Vronsky because she was bored with her husband, Alexei Alexandrovich. He is a good man, though he is dull, and he loves her, but Anna makes absolutely no effort to make their marriage work. She has given up on him, decided not to love him. Alexei appears willing to repair things with her, but she is consistently cruel and rude to him. I guess it’s just a good idea to choose the right person in the first place.

Third: Forgiveness is truly good.

The heart-wrenching last scene shows Alexei Alexandrovich sitting in a meadow with Seryozha (his and Anna’s son) and Anya (Vronsky and Anna’s daughter) playing nearby. He is happy, peaceful, surrounded by these two beautiful children who are now his forever. Anna has died; Vronsky is gone. Because Alexei was able to forgive Anna for what she did, he now has a family to surround him and bring him happiness for the rest of his life. I don’t know if I’d be able to forgive if I were in his shoes, but it’s impressive to see how it benefits him. He isn’t consumed by anger and hatred, but rather is able to love.

Have any of you seen the movie? What did you think? I definitely recommend it, but keep some tissues nearby, especially if you’re a parent!

You might also like:
“What Happened to Anna K.” (book review)
Thoughts on “Les Misérables” (movie)
Skyfall & the allure of imagination


6 thoughts on “Anna Karenina & the power of choice

  1. I saw it and posted a review of it on my blog a few weeks ago. I really didn’t like this adaptation of the novel. I have read the book and I loved that but I struggled with this movie version. Maybe I would like it better if I watched it a second time but I don’t think I can bring myself to sit through it again! It’s a shame as I thought I would enjoy it. Joe Wright (the director) usually makes good films and I love his adaptations of Atonement (adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan) and Pride & Prejudice. But this was disappointing, IMO.

  2. Agree with the others – you do write a great review. Nice to bring in the novel’s strengths and the life lessons, too. I didn’t like the movie though. It was stylized in a way I found to be very distracting. I love period dramas largely because of the visual beauty of the sets and costumes and how you can suspend disbelief and sink right inside the film. Not on this one, though. It felt like they were cutting costs with the theater-gimick.
    (And, I know that the husband was supposed to be dull, but seeing Jude Law bring out the “box” at night really made me cringe!)

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