Anna Karenina' DVD, Vivien Leigh (1948), New & Sealed
Count Tolstoy's massive novels, 'War and Peace,' and 'Anna Karenina' are personally quite challenging.
Here are breathtakingly crafted literary works in a spiritual context of unconstructive energy. It's quite easy to become as entranced within these 'worlds' as are many music lovers within the skewed terrain of Wagner's Valhalla and Nibelungens.
Tolstoy's words pull in the reader almost hypnotically as he spins his titanic, subtle tales of societal mores conflicting with human emotions.
Many of his characters are self-absorbed and vain, and his social environments repressive and stolid, with false values that tragically dehumanize and destroy.
So it's an ultimate challenge to attempt to separate these energetic downers from their dazzling technical counterparts.
In the case of 'Anna,' after stripping away the polished veneer, I find characters trying to cope with their testy emotional choices while being thwarted by inhuman societal standards.
Yet 'Anna' is a favorite of filmmakers, having been done countless times, with the Garbo-Selznick version the most notable. Here Vivien Leigh gives a creditable performance of this distraught heroine, with Director Julien Duvivier joining Jean Anuith in script adaptation.
Ralph Richardson and Kieron Moore are both completely substantial, and general production values are attended to with solid professionalism.
Alas, the enactment seldom tugs heartstrings and, in fact, a strangely turgid pall seems to hang over the entire production. Condensing a 900-page novel down to 2-hour running time doesn't help matters.
As for Leigh, my feeling is that she gravitated too often to 'fallen woman' roles. While she portrayed them very well, they may have failed to bring her the uplift her personality seemed to desperately seek. Hers was pretty much a career of depressingly joyless female characters, which perhaps worked not to her personal advantage.
That's another matter, though; Leigh was forever the consummate, fine actress, and her legacy is one of great artistic achievement.
This version of 'Anna Karenina' remains a thoughtful, worthy attempt at a near-impossible task.
Director: Julien Duvivier
Vivien Leigh .... Anna Karenina
Ralph Richardson .... Alexei Karenin
Kieron Moore .... Count Vronsky
Hugh Dempster .... Stefan Oblonsky
Mary Kerridge .... Dolly Oblonsky
Marie Lohr .... Princess Scherbatsky
Frank Tickle .... Prince Scherbatsky
Sally Ann Howes .... Kitty Scherbatsky
Niall MacGinnis .... Konstantin Levin
Michael Gough .... Nicholai
Martita Hunt .... Princess Betty Tversky
Heather Thatcher .... Countess Lydia Ivanova
Helen Haye .... Countess Vronsky
Mary Martlew .... Princess Nathalia
Ruby Miller .... Countess Meskov
Coding: All Region Code / NTSC format
Video: 4:3 Fullscreen
Audio: Dolby Digital / AC-3 / 5.1 Surround Sound
Subtitles: English / Chinese (Removable)
Runtime: 139 Mins.
Colour: Black & White