SNARK WEEK: Why I Don’t Want to Watch Anna Karenina (2012)

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As we were discussing #SnarkWeek (as one does) on Facebook, a few people mentioned the 2012 Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley. I groaned, as I’ve put off watching that movie and really can’t find ANY motivation to do it now. Why? Well, let me tell you:

Keira Knightley (2012) vs. Sophie Marceau (1997) in Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley as Anna (2012) vs. Sophie Marceau as Anna (1997)

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Aaron Taylor Johnson as Vronsky (2012) vs. Sean Bean as Vronsky (1997)

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Each film’s most iconic costume, designed by Jacqueline Durran (2012) vs. Maurizio Millenotti (1997)

exhibit4comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Most iconic costume: wrinkled red silk dupioni (2012) or amazing black & white stripes (1997)?

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Costumes on Kitty & Dolly, 2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Kitty’s ballgown, 2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

Kitty and Levin’s costumes, 2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

comparing Anna Karenina movie costumes

2012 vs. 1997

I’m glad we had this talk.

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

26 Responses

  1. Loren

    I saw the preview and was so scarred by it I haven’t managed to watch it either but by all reports 1997 kicks 2012’s ASS. All you need to see is this scene from the ball to know that 1997 blows it out of the water.

    Reply
  2. Sarah Lorraine

    BWAHAHA. Oh, Kendra, you slay me.

    I’m going to have to write a FF article on why the 2012 Anna Karenina isn’t all that bad. Y’all have such a hate on for it, and here it’s like one of the handful of recent costume flicks I’ve actually seen IN THE THEATRE, and it’s actually pretty good. Not going to say it’s competition for Sophie Marceau, but it didn’t suck. And you know me, I’m not a fan of Ms. Knightley in general and I’m still willing to say she did admirably in the role.

    SO STAY TUNED, BITCHEZ.

    Reply
  3. Loren

    2012 Anna K could of had Honey Booboo as Anna and she still would have been better than the dude they chose for Vronsky. Why does Aaron Taylor Johnson look like a whiney 14 year old gay flight attendant pretending to be a “Russian?” WHY I ASK YOU???

    Reply
  4. Karen Lavoie

    Loved the dancing scene–so well choreographed, especially with all that one-armed dancing going on! I agree with the David’s Bridal comment. . . .made for the contemporary eye. So loved the 1997 ensembles. Must check out the ’97 one on Netflix streaming, if they have it. . . .

    Reply
  5. Diana

    One of the KK poses looks like a bad bridal gown ad. Ew! I’m with Kendra. Don’t wanna see it and you can’t make me :p

    Reply
  6. Mellor

    I’m glad you posted a pic of the crazy dance. I research, choreograph and perform dances of this time period, and I know what they were trying to do, but it didn’t work. They obviously can’t choose actors based on having 10 or 12 years of European ballet experience just so they can do the mazurka (the 19th century’s Eastern European status dance) in the big dance scene, but all that manic muppet-flailing with their arms does not convey the majesty of the 19th century Russian ballroom. I blame “Dancing With The Stars” for making people think that waving one’s arms about is good dancing! Though I do think the actors deserve some cred for getting through it with straight faces.

    Reply
  7. Carolyn

    Welllll….my husband bought me the dvd as a last minute add on to my Christmas present last year so I had to watch it. Props to him for making an effort, although I thought he knew how I feel about Keira-leads-with-her-jaw-Knightly.

    I have to agree with Sarah – it doesn’t suck. I haven’t seen the ’97 version and I don’t know that I will, despite the raves and fabulousness. I don’t really like the story of Anna Karenina. I read the book. Hella depressing. I don’t watch movies to be depressed. But the overall art direction of this was pretty cool. It was morphed into a quasi stage production that while gimmicky was visually interesting. Having the dvd I watched the special features and there was bit on the costuming. They were going for a weird kinda mash-up of Victorian with 1950s couture. This kinda worked with a few costumes, but it wasn’t obvious while watching the movie and I kept being distracted wondering why it was so weird. And I didn’t find Keira nearly so annoying as I usually do, I was begrudgingly impressed with her performance in this.

    Reply
    • Nellie Kampmann

      The quasi stage production gimmick distracted me so much that I gave up on the movie halfway through. I was only watching it for the costuming anyway, since I also find the story quite depressing.

      Reply
  8. Ilana

    At least they were up front about the costuming intentionally not being period-accurate.

    Also, the Stoppard script for the 2012 film and the directorial push away from realism are really cool. But, of course, those aren’t the focus of a period costume blog :)

    Reply
  9. Jenny Ketcham

    I haven’t seen it either, more from the “why bother/been done” aspect, plus the sacrilege of shaving back Jude Law’s sadly already receding hairline, and otherwise ugly-ing him up to play Karenin. A fairly impossible feat, in any case, IMO, having worked briefly on Cold Mountain and stood six feet from those eyes one lunchtime. Sigh. Of course, I looked like a drowned rat the one time he looked my way…filming in summer.

    I’m sorry…off the train track. The main reason I didn’t want to watch it was to stand in solidarity with Colleen Atwood who was ROBBED by the Academy giving the Oscar to Jacqueline Durran. I saw the Snow White and the Huntsman costumes along with the Karenina ones in an exhibit in LA, and there was no question that CA won it over JD in beauty, craftsmanship and shear detail!

    Reply
  10. dyanswan

    Is it me or does Keira Knightley seem too 21st century for costume dramas? Some of the things that bothered me in the 2012 version of Anna Karenina was Keira Knightley’s posture and walking. She just didn’t have the deportment that I expected.

    Reply
  11. Susanne

    I just tried 2012 AK the other night because hey, bustle dresses on Netflix. I didn’t make it 15 minutes – too bemused (and slightly nauseated) by the shifting-stage-scenes gimmick. Got more interested in background than lead costumes, then irritated, then decided to change for The Buccaneers. (Which, btw, has absolutely GLORIOUS bustle into natural form. The black-and-white stripey ruffle number in ep 2 is To Die For.)

    Reply
  12. Adam Lid

    Looks like someone got a bunch of prom dresses/bridal gowns for cheap. Doesn’t work but you probably figured that one out already. ;-) I guess the concept of the bustle is an alien one and Keira Knightly? No talent. What a waste.

    Reply
  13. Adina

    I watched the new one. The idea of making it look like it’s set on a stage is a pretty cool one, and I think it’s executed fairly well. Unfortunately the acting is not u to snuff.
    I actually think Mathew MacFayden is handsome (sorry, Kendra), but in the movie he was so arch, and his mustache was so absurd I just couldn’t take him seriously.

    Reply
  14. Hillary

    I actually enjoyed the movie far more than I thought I would, but I agree that the costumes left much to be desired. Kitty’s ballgown was the worst in my opinion. It just screamed “David’s Bridal”.

    And Jude Law nailed his role as poor Karenenin! I just wanted to give him a hug.

    Reply
  15. andrebd

    I watched the 1997 Anna Karenina just after I read the book (that it’s AMAZING OMG).
    As pretty as all of the costumes looked, and awesome surroundings, I just couldn’t cope with the lack of accuracy with the book. I know it’s ENORMOUSLY challenging to translate this book into a movie, but at least they could have at least included some of the feminist point of view on it instead of portraying Anna like a crazy bitch, Vronsky a very patient man in love, Karenin an abusive rapist husband, and Kitty as a pretty useless wife. Also WAR AGAINST THE COMMUNISTS (wtf???). Half of the book is about the unfairness of the female situation vs the situation of men, and in the movie there’s just too much dick.
    The director and I did not read the same book.
    Also Anna’s fringe.
    I haven’t seen the 2012 one yet for two reasons
    -Vronsky looks like he is 12.
    -The description of Anna in the book depicts her as “chubby” (dunno the exact word in the English version because I read it in Spanish), and then Keira Knightley happens.
    Maybe some day I’ll have the courage to watch it.
    -sigh-

    Reply
  16. Justme

    Why do filmmakers insist on (not only casting Kiera Knightly in every historical film ever, even when she doesn’t fit the character, but also) making Keira Knightly look so disheveled in every historical film she’s in? Is is supposed to make her look waif-like or something? It doesn’t. It just makes her look destitute. Her “iconic” red dress in AK doesn’t even look like it fits (falling off the shoulders, slouchy waist), and even the display mannequin looks like its hair hasn’t seen a comb in weeks.

    Reply
  17. Someone

    I can totally understand how the costumes were a huge disappointment compared to the 1997 film, but the loose curls were mentioned during the ball scene in the book. It symbolizes her carelessness when it comes to formal events. She has experienced so many of these pleasures throughout her life that she doesn’t value each dance as the young and innocent Kitty does. I can also understand how Kiera Knightly was given a main role in so many historical films some of which didn’t fit her, but there couldn’t be a better actress to play the role of Anna Karanina. She was beautiful, majestic, and very talented when playing the role of a troubled wife. Similarly to the role she played in Duchess. In the book, it says Anna is supposed to be slightly plump. Tolstoy made her that way because it was fashionable then to avoid looking Skinny or ‘sickly’. Kiera is clean cut and tidy in many of her films except for the times when her characters are supposed to be rebellious, strong, or struggling. Examples of this are Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement, Duchess, and Pride and Prejudice.

    Reply

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