The time is 1874. Vibrant and beautiful, Anna Karenina has what any of her contemporaries would aspire to; she is the wife of Karenin, a high-ranking government official to whom she has borne a son, and her social standing in St. Petersburg could scarcely be higher. She journeys to Moscow after a letter from her philandering brother Oblonsky arrives, asking for Anna to come and help save his marriage to Dolly. En route, Anna makes the acquaintance of Countess Vronsky, who introduces her son, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky. The Moscow household is also visited by Oblonsky’s best friend Levin, an overly sensitive and compassionate landowner. Levin is in love with Dolly’s younger sister Kitty. Inopportunely, he proposes to Kitty but she is infatuated with Vronsky. Devastated, Levin returns to his Pokrovskoe estate and throws himself into farm work. Kitty herself is heartbroken when, at a grand ball, Vronsky only has eyes for Anna and she reciprocates the younger man’s interest. Anna struggles to regain her equilibrium by rushing home to St. Petersburg, where Vronsky follows her. She attempts to resume her familial routine, but is consumed by thoughts of Vronsky. A passionate affair ensues, which scandalises St. Petersburg society. Karenin is placed in an untenable position and is forced to give his wife an ultimatum. In attempting to attain happiness, the decisions Anna makes pierce the veneer of an image-obsessed society, reverberating with romantic and tragic consequences that dramatically change her and the lives of all around her.

Director's Statement

When I read the book, it spoke directly to the place that I found myself at in life. You hope you are like one of the characters, and you realise that you have been like another of the characters. They are all perfectly true, and terrifyingly close. Tolstoy wrote the novel to be accessible in terms of its emotions. His analysis of motivation and character is so extraordinary, so acute. In our conversations, Tom Stoppard and I realised that we both felt the same way about the characters. The narrative threads we chose work as a kind of double helix, winding around each other in a multi-stranded portrait of a community; for example, Oblonsky is a catalyst in both threads, as he is Anna’s brother in need of help and Levin’s friend trying to help. I like exploring the form and being expressive. One of the things I enjoyed about making PRIDE & PREJUDICE and ATONEMENT was that each of those films had a large portion shot in one location – which in fact engendered a lot of creative freedom. I thought, if I could set ANNA KARENINA largely in one place, then what and where would it be? What came to me was a passage in [British historian] Orlando Figes’ “Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia” where he’s describing St. Petersburg high society as people living their lives as if upon a stage. So I realised, ‘Okay, we could situate this film in a theatre.’

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Tom Stoppard

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster

Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey

Editing: Melanie Oliver

Production Design: Sarah Greenwood

Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran

Original Score: Dario Marianelli

Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson, Jude Law

Nominations and Awards

  • European Production Designer 2013
  • European Actress 2013
  • European Actor 2013
  • European Screenwriter 2013
  • Feature Film Selection 2013