There's something inherently theatrical in retelling a classic literary tale, so it's fitting that director Joe Wright goes literally theatrical in "Anna Karenina," a fast-moving and eye-popping adaptation of the great Leo Tolstoy novel of love, adultery and societal pressures in Imperial Russia.
Wright places all the action of "Anna Karenina" in a massive and empty theater, with dizzying choreography and camera movements to take us from scene to scene. Every inch of the theater gets used, from grand balls in the audience space to gritty street life in the catwalks while the most intimate moments are played out on the stage for all of St. Petersburg to watch and, of course, they all are watching intently.
What they are watching is Anna (played by Keira Knightley, Wright's star in "Atonement"), the beautiful young wife of the morally upright government official Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), slowly being seduced by the handsome Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). At first, the flirtations are harmless enough, but soon Alexei issues a stern warning: "You may, by indiscretion, give the world occasion to talk about you." In Russian high society, that's perhaps the most serious crime imaginable.