Monday, July 8, 2013

Anna Karenina's Stage

I mean only to talk about one aspect of last year's film Anna Karenina: the use of the stage.

Most people who have taken the time to read the very long (though of course not as long as War and Peace) Tolstoy book love it; but I know that I read it a little young. So I don't have the same connection to the story that others have. This, in turn, is why I'm focusing only on one stylistic choice in the film version.

When I heard about the stage usage, I imagined that the film would be like a play, taking place entirely on the platform. Visibly. But it in fact moves around the stage, above it and in front of it. Some scenes are barely recognizable as using the stage, they're placed around it so creatively. The result is that the stage becomes a character and a symbol, representing the idea of looking and being looked at. Sometimes it is barely noticeable, sometimes it fits well into its surroundings, and other times it is painfully obvious.

All this fits into the story's commentary about society. Generally, the wealthy are at the center of the stage, with the bustle of the city streets, for instance, taking place in the rafters above the stage. This example sets up the wealthy as capable of ignoring the common people but also depending on them--because they are the hands behind the scenes. It's a little dizzying at times, which I took to be the point. Movie Anna is caught between her awareness of being looked at and her own conflicting gazes.

Whatever else the movie did, its use of the stage I found effective and innovative. If such a method has been used in such a way before, I don't think I've seen it. So for me, it may have been the best part of the movie.

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