Not lengthy after publishing his most beloved novel Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy gave away his wealth, renounced his aristocratic privileges, and embraced the lifetime of a peasant. His excessive experiment in Christian anarchism however, nonetheless, Tolstoy was fascinated by new expertise and allowed himself to be photographed and filmed close to the top of his life. On one event, he supposedly confessed a love of the cinema to his guests and advised them he was considering of writing “a play for the display” on a “bloody theme.”
“All the identical,” argues Rosamund Bartlett on the OUP weblog, Tolstoy “would in all probability have taken a dim view of the twenty odd display diversifications of Anna Karenina.” The writer died the yr earlier than the primary filmed adaptation of his work, a silent French/Russian adaptation of Anna Karenina made in 1911. 5 extra would observe earlier than Greta Garbo stepped into the function for a unfastened 1927 adaptation titled Love, then once more a 1935 movie model directed by Clarence Brown, with Fredric March as Vronsky and Garbo because the “most well-known and critically-acclaimed of all of the Annas Karenina,” Dan Sheehan writes at LitHub.
Garbo’s model is usually thought-about the top of Tolstoy movie diversifications — largely due to Garbo. Or as Graham Greene wrote then, “it’s Greta Garbo’s persona which ‘makes’ this movie, which fills the mildew of the neat respectful adaptation with some sort of sense of the greatness of the novel.” The issue of diversifications — of nice novels normally, and of Tolstoy’s particularly — is that they have to scale back an excessive amount of complexity, reduce out too many characters and very important subplots, and boil down the broader themes of the guide to focus virtually solely on the tragic romance at its heart.
Perhaps that is what Tolstoy meant when he allegedly referred to as the digicam (“the little clicking contraption with the revolving deal with”) a “direct assault on the previous strategies of literary artwork.” Novels weren’t meant to be movies. They’re too unfastened and expansive. “We will should adapt ourselves to the shadowy display and to the chilly machine,” Tolstoy presciently famous, conscious that movie required a wholly totally different conception of narrative artwork. Diversifications of Anna proceed to proliferate nonetheless within the Twenty first century, from Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation with Kiera Knightley to, most just lately, Netflix’s first Russian unique drama sequence with Svetlana Khodchenkova because the title character.
Tolstoy students largely echo what I believe Tolstoy himself may need considered filmed variations of his novel. As Carol Apollonio put it in a current on-line dialogue, “If you’d like Anna Karenina, learn it once more (and once more). If you’d like one thing else, then learn or watch that, however don’t assume it has loads to do with Tolstoy.” That stated, we convey you one more adaptation of Anna Karenina, simply above, a mini-series from 2013 starring Vittoria Puccini, Santiago Cabrera, Benjamin Sadler, and Max von Thun. Its setting and costuming are period-correct, however does it meet the exacting literary customary of the unique? After all not.
Movie variations of novels can’t approximate literature. However an excellent adaptation of Anna Karenina, whether or not set in Nineteenth-century Russia, Twenty first-century Australia, or solely — as in Joe Wright’s 2012 movie — on a stage, can convey “the emotional tragedy of Anna’s story,” Apollonio writes. Diversifications shouldn’t simply illustrate their sources faithfully, nor ought to they take a lot license that the supply turns into irrelevant. They’re at all times tied in a roundabout way to the unique, and thus in each cinematic Anna is a little bit little bit of Tolstoy. However you’ll should learn, or reread, the novel to see how a lot of it the sequence above captures, and the way a lot it frustratingly leaves out.
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Josh Jones is a author and musician primarily based in Durham, NC. Observe him at @jdmagness.