Director Joe Wright (Atonement) and screenwriter Tom Stoppard cut against the grain of Leo Tolstoy’s realist classic by creating a mannered, ornate wedding cake of a film where the wrenching human drama of passion, addiction and suicide takes second place to costume changes, choreographed movements and crisp British acting. The results are generally refreshing. Much of the film takes place inside a theatre, as if to suggest the shenanigans of the Saint Petersburg aristocracy were a form of public entertainment. The story follows Anna (Keira Knightley), the multicostumed flighty wife of a pious but boring aristocrat (an unhandsome but very good Jude Law), who risks wealth, reputation and her children for an affair with a shallow but doll-like young cavalry officer (Aaron Taylor- Johnson). In contrast to the rich folks’ lethal games, the farmer and Tolstoy surrogate Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) seeks a truer, purer love in equally decorous rural scenes where he works shoulder-to-shoulder with his noble serfs.
Sept. 7, 6 p.m., Elgin; Sept. 8, 12:15 p.m., Isabel Bader
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