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April Showers: “Anna Karenina”

 April Showers semi-daily @ 11 

 Andrew here to briefly talk about Anna Karenina, because  I relish any opportunity to talk about one of my favourite 2012 films.

Among the great many things about Anna Karenina I remain grateful for (Keira’s most adult performance, Marianelli’s most inventive score, great work from Durran are a few) Jude Law’s turn as Alexei Karenin is near the top. Prior to Anna Karenina I’d been experiencing something akin to cognitive dissonance with Jude for the last eight years or so. Other than the odd Contagion thrown in I’d been finding it more and more difficult to justify the reasons I kept maintaining that he was my favourite actor under 40. So, naturally, he had much to prove to me with Anna Karenina and luckily I wasn’t disappointed.

The shower in question is brief but comes at a pivotal moment in the film. With a third of the narrative left Karenin, assured of his wife's infidelity, experiences an awkward dinner with her brother's family. He is too scrupulous to excuse or understand Anna’s cheating ways and when he receives a letter plaintive letter he rips it to shreds.


 With that tortured look, alone, I’m willing to forgive less than exciting work in the years preceding. It's not that post-2004 and pre-2012 Jude was slumming it, but he's not been pushing himself either. It’s one of the key reasons I would reach for Wright’s Karenina before any other. Karenin is not a footnote, but a full realised man. Wright and Stoppard are unwaveringly interested in ALL of their characters and the examination of Karenin is as compassionate and warm as that of the eponymous heroine. As the shredded paper morphs into a shower of snow it leads to one of the multiple glorious images of the film.

Seeing steadfast Karenin (and his good ethics) inundated in a shower of white does not seem accidental, to me. The idea of a jilted lover standing in a shower of rain is not unheard of, but of course Karenin - forever suffering in silence - is showered not in loud raindrops but snow which is not only as pure and immaculate as his morals are but silent, too. There is no pitter patter as this shower unfolds but a chilling soundlessness as the snow falls to the stage. Like Karenin himself, a man not out of love with his wife but too emotionlessly silent to show it, there is no sound. Poor cuckolded fool, though; shredded paper and all he’s at her bedside in the next scene.

Was anyone else as moved by Jude's Karenin last year? Did Wright's compassion for the cuckolded husband impress you too?

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Reader Comments (16)

LOVE this movie. Ultimately, though, while it was a wonderful performance, I have mixed emotions about Karenin. One of the things I love about the film is our point of view seems almost to be a character in the movie - we love Anna, then we are her co-conspirator, then we are upset by what she's done, and finally we turn on her, degrading her as some kind of insane hateful being. Karenin is decidedly removed for all this, as he is from Anna's decisions. His holiness fuels the hatred towards Anna. I can't decide if I'm furious with him for not standing up for himself, or if he is a role model for understanding his love for Anna and handling it appropriately.

Despite mixed emotions about the character, though, Law's fragile loss and inability to even comprehend what has happened to him is fascinating. The scorned spouse usually boils over with anger or seems intimidated by reality, and he doesn't fall into either category. He seems to have an internal, almost spiritual journey going on that he can't handle. In that sense, he is much more realistic than the typical character in this role, and it is largely because of Law's performance.

April 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I ADORED THIS SCENE. So beautiful and imaginative.

I never categorized as a "shower" but you're more than right here. I'm still shocked that this film didn't get much attention because it is such a masterclass in creativity. The visuals, the transitions, the staging and fluid movements. I loved it all.

Jude Law was great too. His was a more understated, quiet performance but then again that was how it was supposed to be in the wide scheme of things. He was grounded and somewhat more internalized but that only made him standout more among the grandiosity of Anna's melodrama.

Wonderful choice.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

What a beautiful choice for an april shower. I'm with Derreck regarding the shock that this film didn't get more attention. Here it was released this year, and at the moment it is my favorite film this movieyear so far. I loved how the performances made you understand and feel for both of them, without judging or pitying them.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

Lovely piece! I love this performance too obviously since he was a nominee here this year.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I too loved the snow/shower scene; my favorite in the film.

However - the second reason I had to comment here is that when I scrolled down the page and just saw the first two photos of Jude Law, they almost match up to make one photo. And it reminded me of this:

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

This performance remnded how good he can be,a bronze medalist from me in 2012 though i did not care for the film..

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

Nathaniel, don't remind us your nominees, since we're obviously remind you to tell us who the winners are in Actor and Supporting Actress.

Law is very very good, but I LOATHE the movie.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Gorgeous film and seriously underrated.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

One of my favorite parts of this movie was Ruth Wilson as Princess delightful to watch.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

That movie was just sooooooooooooooooooo stunningly beautiful I loved it to pieces, and was deeply moved by Law´s performance.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Looks like I need to see this. I've been avoiding it because of the trailer, which makes me feel Kiera is too young for the part and the visual design is just too stagy. But I've heard such accolades for Wright's film on this site that I think I'm going to check it out. No doubt the movie looks gorgeous from a technical standpoint.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

ale-alejandro -- where have you been? welcome back to the comments :)

brookesboy -- yes, you need to see it. even the parts that don't work have kind of an electric spark like they *might* work. except, uh, aaron johnson.

April 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Thanks, nathaniel.

I've been pretty busy . . . including traveling to Japan. I need to watch more movies to comment. I've been all about TV and books at the moment. :)

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

Aaron Johnson was such a cipher in this movie -- talk about too young! -- that he nearly dragged it out from under the magic spell it had on me. Jude Law and Keira Knightly were both fantastic, an easy favorite film of 2012 (after Amour) based on pure ambition and sumptuousness alone.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

everyone - it's nice to see some other fans of the strangely divisive film. I'm looking forward to Wright's next venture. (I'm with Jason of MNPP, though, Aaron with his delicate take on the character works for me.)

eurocheese - I love how you hit on it there, Karenin is so frustrating because he is so difficult to read and the audience is left uneasy as to how to feel about him and his role in Anna's destruction.

Derreck - I love Jude when he's edgy and volatile but his quiet work here reminds me of one of my favourite turns of his as the similarly taciturn Inman in COLD MOUNTAIN.

Katie - hahaha. I cannot unsee this, and now I want to move the images from the sequence.

Bia - Wilson is so lovely, one of the reasons that this was one of my favourite ensembles of 2012

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Funnily enough, I just saw this movie the night before the post came up!! Stunning movie overall and this scene in particular is just great! Knightley's performance as the title character is easily my favourite of hers. Law's brilliant and the whole cast does a great job (lots of fantastic actors in supporting roles: McFadden, McDonald, Williams, Vikander, Watson). Only Aaron Johnson let's the movie down, in my opinion. He's performance is okay, but I think it lacks enough charisma/passion to justify Anna's obsession and I agree with Mareko in that he's too young for the role. I actually don't know how old he was supposed to be in Tolstoy's classic but I just didn't click for me in the movie (whereas I think Knightley looks the right age for the part - she's supposed to have married at 18, has an 8-or-so-year-old son and her husband is probably about 15 years her senior).

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

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