Keira Knightley has done her best work with director Joe Wright and producers Working Title–she earned an Oscar nomination as Elizabeth Bennett in “Pride and Prejudice” and more kudos for the wartime romance “Atonement.” Which is one reason why I had great expectations for Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, which has been remade many times by filmmakers all over the world.
That’s one reason why Wright suddenly abandoned his intention to do a straight and naturalistic version of the tragic St. Petersberg triangle of dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Anna Karenina (Knightley) and her older husband Alexei Karenin (Jude Law). On a scouting trip to Russian locations Wright kept being told which productions had filmed there. He then came up with the idea of setting his movie–which is about a society consumed by outer appearances and social status–on one stage after another.
The audacious decision to create these theatrical tableaux actually freed Wright to open up the movie visually with several elaborately expressive set pieces with Knightley front and center in one sumptuous costume after another. The movie will certainly gain awards attention for its crafts–production design, cinematography, score and costumes–and Knightley and Jude Law, depending on support from critics–could too.
Knightley talks about how her character evolved, the way the costumes reveal her gilded cage, and how director David Cronenberg freed her as an actress, in our interview below.