Movies in the theater are still a novelty for me. Growing up they were Forbidden (although I may or may not have seen a few anyway), with very young children it’s hard to get away, and now I just have a hard time spending that much money on a 2-hour experience! So whenever I have the opportunity for a “cinematic experience,” I feel blown away. The sound, the color, the movement – it all combines into what is normally a bit overwhelming. This movie was no exception.
I’ll try to get a little deeper than just the visual experience. Let’s start with the positives:
1. I was impressed with the director’s unique and clever adaptions making it seem like the whole novel was a play…well, most of the novel, anyway…there were a few times they seem to have left this behind. I had read about this in a review and was skeptical. But it worked!
2. The dancing! Combined with the gorgeous costumes, it was truly a spectacle. There was one dance in particular that I will call “The Swan Dance” that was particularly gorgeous and sexy. I wonder if they made it up, or if there really was such a stylized dance of the time period. Tune in later once I do my research. Christine and her husband take dance lessons regularly. I suggested they learn that one – she just laughed at my idea. Wonder why?
3. Oblonsky became the comic relief of the play. It was nice to have this distraction from the rest of the drama. I giggled at his antics, facial expressions, posing, and just general dandy-ness.
Now for the negatives:
1. The under-emphasis on Levin’s spiritual journey. I think this is very important to Tolstoy and to a correct understanding of the themes of the book. The movie included many scenes with Levin and Kitty, but left out most of Levin’s angst and searching.
2. The (expected) shallowness of the characters as compared to the book. This always disappoints me. I KNOW that it is impossible to turn a 900+ page novel into a movie without leaving out much of the detail, but it still doesn’t stop me from wishing they could. A mini-series would be better. I was very glad I had read the book first – that way my brain could fill in all the gaps.
3. Levin’s general wimpy-ness. He was my favorite character in the novel, and the choices made in the movie just didn’t agree with how I pictured him. He looked pouty, childish, and indecisive most of the time.
All in all, I was entertained. It didn’t seem like 130 minutes. Time flew. I think they met the challenge of turning Tolstoy’s classic novel into screen-fare relatively well. I give it a B. But don’t take your children. The “R” rating was probably warranted. (Although less for violence than for sexuality. The worst violence was the peasant accident at the beginning, which looked rather fake to me. And the sex wasn’t completely gratuitous.) Rent it when it comes out on video and enjoy the spectacle. It’s a sparkly end to reading a very long, complex novel.
P.S. Sorry for covering some ground already covered in previous movie posts. Seems like we three think alike.