It's time to revisit Leo Tolstoy's classic tragedy once more. We are in the late nineteenth century Russian high society, but this time Tom Stoppard ("Shakespeare in Love") did the script and his theatrical roots are evident from the first moment, as we watch a curtain rise to reveal a stage. From then on, we move from theater to house to theater to street, etc., etc... It is a bit disorienting at the beginning, but once we adjust our expectations, it works very, very well. The actors' movements are sometimes balletic, sometimes comedic and sometimes simply theatrical, but director Joe Wright ("Atonement") never loses control.
This is a lush production with gorgeous costumes, amazing hair styles and a peek at the privileges the aristocracy enjoyed. The Russians emulated the French, so the children were taught French, while the clothing and furniture echoed those of Paris.
This R-rated film runs over two hours and is filled with endless close-ups that examine Knightley's face, hands, hair, eyes, lips, etc. I saw more than I needed during the love scenes: I still think some things are best left to our imagination.