Friday, June 22, 2012

Anna Karenina Movie & Adaptations

I saw the trailer for a new adapatation of "Anna Karenina" the other day and am very intrigued. I tried to read the book once before and failed miserably. I'd like to watch the movie but as a rule, I read the book before I watch the adaptation. The same will go for "The Great Gatsby" which comes out later this year.

The Karenina translation recommended to me was the Pevear-Volokhonsky version. The translators are a husband and wife team who've translated Russian classics like Tolstoy, Chekov, Pasternak, Gogol and Dostoyevsky.

The movie looks interesting but I'm worried it's going to be more artsy than adaptationy. The look reminds me of "Russian Ark" a very good, one take film about the history of Russia. I'm not that excited by the casting so we'll see what happens. I'll probably also end up checking out the 1935 Garbo version and the 1948 Vivien Leigh version as well.

What do you think of adaptations in movies? I have mixed feelings about them.

There are going to be at least three giant adaptations this year alone with "Anna Karenina", "Les Miserables" and "The Great Gatsby". I do like that Hollywood appears to be moving away from sequels, remakes and reboots and looking to adaptations for movies. But again, adaptations of these films have been made before and may possibly retread familiar territory without bringing anything new to the screen, which questions the validity of making such movies.

I worry that adaptations are being made simply because it's been awhile since the last version was made and film makers assume the public is ready for the film to be remade. There have been 12 previous attempts to adapt "Anna Karenina" to the screen, the last one only seven years ago. So you may ask, why remake it again? I don't have the answer though it will be interesting to see what kind of adaptation it is. It appears to be faithful to the time period but without viewing the movie it's impossible to say if any other changes have been made.

I'm also not wild about the casting of Kiera Knightly. People are already starting to talk about this as her 'Oscar' role. Gods people! The movie hasn't even come out yet and already you're speculating. I've only ever really like her in her first role "Bend it like Beckham". I just don't think much of her acting. It's not that her acting is bad but I've never been wowed by a performance. This is perhaps an unfair judgement as I haven't seen all of her movies but then again, I don't know that I'm interested enough in Knightly as an actor to objectively look at her career and then pass judgement on her acting. There are other actors whose filmographies I'm far more excited by to spend time on Knightly. I can say that I saw "Pride and Prejudice" and wasn't impressed. I loved the set but I just didn't buy the two leads. Macfadyen seemed mumbly and wasn't snobbish enough for my tastes and Knightly wasn't nearly subtle or snarky enough. Again this is the problem with adaptations. Each director has their own vision which may not jive completely with the book. Who knows though, she may suprise me, as I'm sure Ledger did everybody in "The Dark Knight"

I do think that the ostentatious atmosphere of the 1920s may lend itself to the way Baz Luhrman films movies. "The Great Gatsby" may even benefit from his style though I demand substance as well. 'Pretty' movies are a dime a dozen and make for boring watching which the viewer soon forgets about afterwards. Again, this is another book I'm going to have to pick up before the film comes out but honestly, I can't wait. I love adaptations because they usually draw from great source material and hopefully it gives the book some much deserved attention. As well, it's the opportunity to see a story realised in the flesh. We get a visual representation of the words on the page. And haven't there been times when you wish there was a visual to accompany a situation or character?

"Les Miserables" is going to follow in the tradition of the Broadway musical and have singing. *Big sigh* Movies with singing aren't always strong on story as they spend so much time on the music. This film has Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean who it's been proven, can sing. Russell Crowe also stars and while I'm not sure he can sing, I believe he'll more than be able to carry his acting role. My concern is Anne Hathaway. She plays Fantine and while I've heard her sing previously in "Enchanted" I wonder if her singing ability is up to the numbers in the movie. There are some very powerful pieces in the film that I would hate to not be fully realized. Hathaway sings in the trailer but it's not as I would expect for the role. I want a full bodied, powerful and passionate voice for all of Fantine's songs. I supposed I've been spoiled by Lea Salonga's Fantine on Broadway but just listen to the power behind her voice.

I've posted a video of one of her performances with the same song from the movie trailer so that you compare the two and make your own judgement. I know Hathaway's primarily an actor but she's sung at Carnegie Hall so she has experience singing. She definitely infuses the song from the trailer with emotion and Salonga's version is more of a performance but with a musical there has to be some suspension of belief. I thought it would be more interesting to see this film as a straight drama but as it's a musical, the film maker's know that they better have some damn good singers as their leads. A good musical can fizzle without them. For example, 2004's "Phantom of the Opera" was a musical, like the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway version. The leads were actors first and singers second and I felt the movie suffered for this. If you're making a musical, you can't take yourself seriously and should go full boar on the songs which is where I feel Phantom fell down. It was too busy trying to be pretty and dramatic without the gravitas of some amazing voices to anchor the performances.

In any case, I'm looking forward to all of these movies. Primarily because I love both books and movies and when you can combine the two, it can create something amazing.

So tell me, are you planning on seeing any of these films? How do you feel about adaptations?


Melwyk said...

I find adaptations interesting for the most part -- but I won't be watching this Anna as I CAN.NOT.STAND Keira Knightley. Ick. Her acting style is really not to my taste. Agree with you on the P&P she was in -- but nothing can top Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle ;)

theduckthief said...

I can only hope that Knightly doesn't botch this movie because as the lead, it will bend or break mostly on her ability alone.

That being said I'll see what the reviews say then judge whether to spend my money on this adaptation.