All the world — the world of landed Russian aristocrats — is a stage in Joe Wright’s brazen, exhilarating film of Tolstoy’s story about the lady, her lover, her husband and the train. Tom Stoppard’s script manages a suave synopsis of the 900-page novel, while Wright stages most of the action in a reproduction of a 19th century theater to underline the artificiality and poisonous grace of high society. He sets dozens of characters awhirl and aghast at the reckless affair that Anna (Keira Knightley) pursues with the dashing soldier Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed much of the movie: a Moscow ball, a horse race, a ballet of waiters and accountants, even the big love scene. The prima ballerina is Knightley, boldly dancing on thin ice as her marriage to respectable Karenin (Jude Law) crumbles into ignominy. This is tragedy played as comic opera soaring into grand opera, and a triumph of art and artifice over the grubby banalities of movie naturalism.
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